~  i l l a w a r r a   c o a l  ~
An Unofficial History of Coal Mining in the Illawarra

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Mt. Kembla mine around 1901

Mount Kembla Colliery

Extracted from "A Profile History of Mount Kembla" by K. C. Stone. 1984

Coal was first mined at Mt. Kembla in 1865 and used to fire the retorts at the Pioneer Kerosene Mine.

In March 1882, preliminary work begun on opening an eight foot seam to the north of the kerosene mine. Sixty men were engaged in work with William Green as first manager.

When kerosene became uneconomical, the Mount Kembla Coal & Oil Co. was formed to go full scale coal mining.

Mine owners had capital raised in England, Sir William Macarthur, Edward Hart, Alexander McArthur M. P., Eugene Collins M. P. , Horace Marshall, Harry Foster, Frederick Tate and Henry Cockburn.

The estate was 600 acres, 200 more purchased and 500 leased for 99 years on a royalty of 3d per ton. The company built a railway to Port Kembla and first coal shipped from this port was mined at Mt. Kembla.

*Officially opened by Ebenezer Vickery (Chairman of the Board), Mt. Kembla Coal Co. on Tuesday, 27th February, 1883.

*The entrance was by horizontal adit several feet below the seam. After 550' the floor of the seam is encountered and a further 150' the seam roof is reached.

Coal output in 1883 was 21,522 tons with 110 men employed, rising to 336 in 1901.


  • 1878 - 1913 The Mount Kembla Coal & Oil Co.

  • 1913 - 1946 Mount Kembla Collieries Ltd.

  • 1946 - 1970 Australian Iron & Steel Ltd.

At 2pm, on the 31st July, 1902, Mt. Kembla Mine suffered the worst mining disaster in Australia's history when a gas explosion killed 96 men and boys. The resulting Royal Commission concluded that a roof fall in a goafed area pushed inflammable gasses into contact with a wheelers naked light, triggering a series of coal dust explosions.

Mt. Kembla mine after the explosion of 1902

Work recommenced on 24th September, 1902.

By 1960 coal output was down to 400 tons/day, contractors were phased out by 1968 and finally closing on 18th September, 1970, having mined 14 million tons in nearly 90 years.

*Additional data from Piggin, Stuart and Lee, Henry, 1992. The Mt. Kembla Disaster.


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