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An Unofficial History of Coal Mining in the Illawarra

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Wongawilli main tunnel 1917
Wongawilli main tunnel
in 1917

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Wongawilli Colliery
1916 - 1993

(now Elouera Colliery)

Opened: 1916
Location: West Dapto
Original Owner: G & C Hoskins Ltd (Andrew Lang?)

1888 Extract from the Annual Report by Mr J. Mackenzie, the Examiner of Coal-fields.

Seams of coal and strata proved by adits, etc. by Mr. J. Biggar, on his property near Dapto, and adjacent to his authorities to mine. (pp103)

About 120 chains SSW of the foregoing, in Por 294 Parish of Kembla, considerable prospecting had been carried out.

Professor David reports on prospecting operations by J. Biggar:- On the property of the late Mr J. Biggar
2, the tunnels are in a better state of repair (pp102)

2 now called Wongawilla (sic).

Notes from L. F. Harper, Geology and Mineral Resources of the Southern Coal-field, 1915.

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Wongawilli Colliery
Coal Bins & Bath House 

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Wongawilli Colliery
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Wongawilli Colliery
Aerial Photo
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1907 - A coal seam at West Dapto [Por 263, Parish of Kembla, County of Camden, south of and adjacent to J. Biggars Por 294 B.S.] was being prospected in 1907 by Mr. Andrew Lang inspected by L. F. Harper (Gov. Geological Surveyor) in 1907 and reported in his 1915 report stating that the seam had not previously been worked by any South Coast colliery.

1908 - The press in 1908 reported that strong possibility that the Wongawilli mine may be sold to powerful company prepared to install a branch line to Brownsville.

1909 - Dec 1909 reported that coal still being mined at Wongawilli with 4 teams employed to haul 11 tons per day to Dapto Railway Station.

1910 - Feb 1910 reported that night and day shifts employed, 200 tons per week, 40 horses 10 bullocks hauling coal to Dapto Railway Station.

1910 - March 1910 work is partially suspended and draymen stood down company intended to reduce costs by installing an incline from the tunnel mouth to the lower level with rail to the Government rail link (this infers that previously coal was hauled from mine entrance by road)

1916 - Wongawilli Colliery is purchased by G & C Hoskins for coke to supply Lithgow works. (required a stronger coke than one made from Lithgow coal)

Hoskins improved the colliery, established a washery and beehive coke ovens below mine adit.
A rail line was built from the washery to Brownsville, opening on 25th October 1916 and in November 1917 coke was being railed to Lithgow from Wongawilli.
Coal was lowered down the escarpment via self acting skip incline.

AI & S started blast furnace at Pt Kembla in August 1928 with Wongawilli coke

The opening of new by-products coke ovens opened at Pt Kembla in Jan 1938 led to washed coal being transported directly from Wongawilli to Port Kembla and the Wongawilli coke ovens shut down, opening again between June 1938 and July 1945 due to the increase demands of the war.

Reynolds, D. K. The Railways of West Dapto Dec 2001.

1916* Wongawilli Colliery established by G & C Hoskins Ltd in the Wongawilli (3#) seam.

1935* BHP purchases Wongawilli Colliery and the Port Kembla steelworks from G & C Hoskins Ltd. (1928 ?)

1936* Longest coal haulage incline in world established at Wongawilli.

1940 Incline Man Transport Train installed.

1942 Trolley Wire Locomotive System used to supplement 1 North Direct Rope Haulage (30cwt skips filled by contract miners).

1946 Coal mined at Nebo Colliery road transported to Wongawilli Washery for treatment.

1947 - Mechanised mining commenced using Jeffrey Cutters, loaders, battery locomotives and 10 ton Differential Mine Cars. (Jeffrey equipment was manufactured under licence in Australia at BHP Newcastle and AI & S Port Kembla Works).

1947 1 North 500HP Direct Rope Haulage installed. Rake of 10 empty 10 ton mine cars lowered under gravity to 1 North Marshalling Yard and 10 full cars hauled to surface for rotary dumping.

1947 Incline and underground endless rope haulage system replaced by automatic friction drive incline hoist comprising 2 x 15 ton track mounted self dumping trippers on the incline. The system operated on 1 pair of 15 ton cars loading at pit top while another pair were self dumping at the incline bottom.

1948 Wongawilli washery ceases operations and is demolished. The Coal Preparation Plant commences operations at AI & S Port Kembla.

1948 Wongawilli Coke Ovens cease operations and are demolished.

1950 1 North workings hole into old South Kembla Mine and thus to surface to create a new return airway for the mine. A new mine fan is installed at the South Kembla Mine Site. Original Wongawilli fan located at pit top becomes redundant and is shut down.

1952 Joy 4JCM [continuous miner] placed in service (first 4JCM in Australia??)

1957 Joy 10SC 415Volt AC shuttle cars placed in service.

1958 The installation of panel and trunk conveyor belts commences.

1959 Incline 30 ton capacity Friction Hoist taken out of service. (Drive later converted to man transport facility).

1959 Surface Decline Conveyor installed. 450HP drive, 4,700 feet centre to centre. (Was first conveyor in world designed to lower coal 600 feet in elevation at a rate of 600 tph ROM.)

1959 1 North underground conveyor commissioned. 450HP drive, 8,700 feet centre to centre, 171 feet lift. 600 tph ROM capacity. (Longest single flight conveyor in Australia at time).

1960 Joy 15SC shuttle cars placed in service.

1960 Joy 6CM continuous miners placed in service.

1961* - Wongawilli commences mining in the Bulli (#1) seam.

1970 Jeffrey 120H Heliminer placed in service. (First 950/1000Volt Jeffrey continuous miner in Australia).

1970 Incline haulage system converted to man transport duties.

1971 Wongawilli No. 1 Ventilation Shaft completed. (adjacent to Avon Dam).

1972 Vertical shaft, axial flow fan installed on Wongawilli No. 1 Shaft. (First fan of this design installed at a coal mine).

1977* - Mining in the Bulli seam ceases.

1991* - Mining in the Bulli seam re-commences for the Elouera roadways.

1993* - Elouera Colliery established from the consolidation of Wongawilli, Nebo and Kemira Collieries.

Information kindly supplied by Mr. Ron Cairns, who commenced his career as an electrical apprentice at Wongawilli Colliery in 1944 and retired while employed as Manager Engineering, BHP Steel Division, Collieries, in 1986.

* BHP Steel, Collieries Division, The Collieries Handbook, December 1993.


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