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An Unofficial History of Coal Mining in the Illawarra

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Coal miners and pit ponies,
Bellambi Coal Mine, 1909

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Bellambi Colliery  1857 - 1921
aka Woonona Colliery and the Model Colliery (simultaneously) 

Opened:- 1857
Closed:- 1863
Reopened:- 1887
Closed:- 1921

The third real attempt to work coal in the Illawarra District.

Opened in 1857 by Thomas Hale, a businessman from Sydney, in Woonona on land owned by Henry Osborne. By September, 1858, a three mile railway of wooden rails with iron facings had been constructed to a jetty at Bellambi.

- Bellambi
Coal Co.

In 1859 Henry Osborne acquired a 50% share in the project.

In 1863 financial problems caused the mine to close for the next twenty five years.

Hale had driven two tunnel systems, one of which hit the well known Cinder Belt which hemmed in the mine to the west and divided part of the holding still in good coal to the south.

The Bellambi Coal Company was formed in 1887 with Mitchell in control. By arrangement with the Osbornes, the owners of the coal, a new tunnel was driven between the two old systems.

The original jetty which was built by William Mills, was swept away in 1898 and never rebuilt.

The mine was successful until 1893, when Mitchell was forced out of the company. After this, economic conditions allowed for continuation until 1914 when the mine was stopped. It opened for a short while after the war and finally closed in 1921.

*In 1913, a roof fall exposed numerous reptilian footprints, identified as probably Ichnium gampsodactylum, a reptile found in the Permian rocks of Europe.

The original jetty which was built
by William Mills, was swept away
in 1898 and never rebuilt

Early in the 20th century a steam driven drill was used to bore a test hole down from "Diamond Drill Swamp" (situated a short distance south of the top of the first hill north of Bellambi Ck. on the Mt. Ousley Road). The coal to power the drill rig was hauled up Bulli Pass by a contractor, Mr. Henry Mant, Carrier and Coach Operator of Bulli.

In 1917 the Sassafras Saw-Mill was commissioned by South Bulli Coal Co. and built by Robert Cram Snr. with brothers, Jack and Arthur. The mill was situated approximately 80 metres west of the escarpment due west of the Bellambi Colliery and connected to that colliery by a flying fox. It supplied timber to the mines and softwoods for general purpose use such as boat building furniture and various types of handles, the empty flying fox being utilised on the return trip to carry coal to power the mill.

Burnt down in 1923, rebuilt but burned down again in 1925-26, the mill site is now the location of the Bellambi 132 KV substation which can be seen from the Mt. Ousley Road.

From a paper by G. Sellers presented to the 1976 Illawarra AusIMM Conference and an historical publication by West Hapgood, Pioneers of Bulli Mountain.

*Harper, L. F. F.G.S. 1915, Geology & Mineral Resources of the Southern Coalfield, pp 153




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