Coal Cliff Colliery
1878 – 1991/2
Owner: Alexander Stuart
Owner: Kembla Coal & Coke Pty Ltd.
Originally belonging to Sir Thomas Mitchell’s Stanwell Park Estate and later to his son, Captain Campbell Mitchell, it was Captain Mitchell who first attempted to mine the coal in this area. Unable to raise sufficient capital, Captain Mitchell sold his property to Mr. Justice Hargrave. The lands came into the possession of the Honourable Alexander Stuart MLA who was the principal proprietor of the Coal Cliff Land and Coal Mining Company.##
Lewis Gordon took up coal bearing lands near Coal Cliff in 1840. Several changes of ownership later they were acquired by Alexander Stuart (later to become NSW Premier 1883 - 1885) in 1876. Financed by Thomas Walker, he constructed the Coal Cliff jetty and opened the tunnel mine in April, 1877, working the Bulli seam outcropping some 10 metres above sea level and the “4 foot seam” exposed at the water’s edge.
Officially opened January 11th, 1878, with the coastal steamship “Eagle” loading 200 tons, the first commercial output from the mine.
The mining company built Clifton village to accommodate its labour force.
In July, 1878, a contract was let to sink a 9’ diam. vertical shaft approx. 70’ deep and in 1879 a furnace was installed at the bottom of this shaft to create a ventilation flow. (Ill Merc 1878) ###
September, 18th 1878 – Fatality – Thomas Oswald, u/g Manager was inspecting the bottom of the shaft when struck by falling piece of clay, passing away in hospital. A former Mine Manager of the Mt Keira Colliery. (Maitland Mercury & Hunter River Gen. Advertiser 28/9/1878 p6) (DoMAR1878)
1878 – Fatality – Thomas Jones, miner, by fall of roof coal. (DoMAR 1878)
The jetty was its lifeline, partially destroyed in June, 1878, rebuilt at a higher level but wrecked again in June 1881, forcing the mine to close for 4 months.
Rebuilt the jetty survived until 1904 when 150 feet was lost. It was not used for shipping after 1912.
Note; NSW Dept. of Mines Annual Report about 1883 showed 102 men employed and the ventilation was 14,000 c.f.m. #
By the late 1880’s a steam driven main and tail rope haulage system was installed and horses were only used to draw the skips from the working faces to the haulage road. ###
In 1886 Alexander Stuart died, the property passing to two of his partners, Sir John Robertson and Charles Cowper. ###
Chartered steamers (including “Eagle”), carried coal to Sydney for bunkering larger ships or export to Asia, Noumea and the U.S.
In 1890 Sir John Robertson and Charles Cowper formed the Coal Cliff Coal and Land Company Ltd to take over the company.###
1892 – Coal Cliff is purchased by Ebenezer Vickery for £19,550. (Australian Town & Country Journal 27th Aug 1892 p17)
1892 – E. Vickery acquires the colliery, estate and 2 ships plus site for a shaft. (KCC May1970)
In 1892 The Hon. Ebenezer Vickery, MLC acquired an interest in the colliery, the family retaining control until taken over by Broken Hill Associated Smelters Pty Ltd. #
1882 – Employment numbered 78 men supplied with 12,000 cfm of air (DoMAR 1882)
Previously, Stuart had two small colliers purpose built in Glasgow, the Hilda and the Herga. Hilda struck a reef near Pt. Hacking in 1893 and was lost but Herga operated throughout the life of the jetty.
1886 – Employment numbered 40 men at the surface with 100 u/g producing 56,623 tons (DoMAR 1886)
1895 – 9th Sept, - Fatality – Edward Evans, miner, killed by a fall of stone roof. (DoMAR 1895)
In 1899, the ventilation shaft sunk in 1878 collapsed and was replaced by a steam engine driven fan. The old furnace shaft was filled in and the Clifton-coal cliff road now passes over it. ###
In 1902, legal ownership is transferred from Ebenezer Vickery to E. Vickery and Sons Ltd then in 1909 to The Coal Cliff Collieries Ltd.
1904 saw Mr Henry Jubb appointed u/m for a short period.
The new steam collier, the Undola, commenced work in 1910 however she disappeared with all hands in December 1918 between Bellambi and Sydney. It is believed that the ship struck a German mine.
1906/1907 – P. J. Carrick is the permit manager (DoMAR 1906 & 1907)
In 1909, consultants D. A. W. Robertson commenced planning the mines future. Financially backed by E. Vickery and Sons Ltd. the decision to form Coal Cliff Collieries Ltd was taken. #
In 1909, the shaft originally sited in 1892 was sunk and formed the main winding shaft until replaced in 1959 by a cross measures drift.
The new colliery was based around this winding shaft sunk adjacent to the northern portal of the Clifton railway tunnel. Shaft spoil formed the foundations of the pit bank of Coal Cliff Colliery.
The shaft intersected the Bulli seam at 343 ft and was extended to the 4’ seam.
The need for mechanisation was recognised and in 1912 two Jeffrey Breast Coal-cutters were purchased. Two Sullivan CE7 DC Cutters mounted on trolleys and mechanically trammed were purchased a few years later. #
In 1912 a double inlet 77” diameter Sirocco centrifugal fan driven by two vertically mounted 17” diameter x 9” stroke single cylinder steam engines was installed at the jetty site. #
Trade shifted from collier to rail, the railways purchasing well over half the pits output.
A rail siding linked the mine to the Illawarra Railway.
Illawarra Coke Works was built in 1913 and commenced producing coke in December, 1914.
Side by side but owned by separate interests, the mine and coke works were eventually acquired by Kembla Coal and Coke Pty Ltd. in 1954.
Power generation was first introduced in 1910 when a 15 kW generator, steam driven by a Bellis & Morcom, vertical compound engine, was installed for lighting purposes. #
1912-1918 two Bellis & Morcom generating sets with 600 kW capacity, were installed to handle the coal cutters, haulage engines and screening plant. #
1915 – Fatality – 9th Aug, Thomas Davis, 49, a miner was killed by a fall of coal. (DoMAR 1915)
1919 saw the mine employing 337 men and producing 225,000 tons/annum.
Coal Cliff Mine ca. 1910
In 1920 a cross measures drift was completed, driven east of the winding shaft to increase capacity to handle men and materials and served as an additional air intake.
1924-1926 a new power house was erected, equipped with 4 x Babcock & Wilcox boilers and two 400 kW 2300 V AC Bellis & Morcom alternator sets. Voltage was stepped down to 415V for general use with the exception of the jetty fan motor of 120 h.p. which was supplied at 2300 V. #
Recommendations to sink an air shaft, mechanisation and reorganisation in 1928 were delayed by industrial troubles in the mining industry and the Depression. However two Sullivan CLE2, trolley mounted, arc-cutters were purchased and a bath house and office building erected during 1928. #
1925 – Fatality – [Robert Bradshaw?]29th July a deputy was killed by a fall of roof. Preparing to draw a prop by chopping it at the bottom, under some roof which it was intended to shoot down. (DoMAR 1925)
1926 – Fatality – 18th Oct a miner was killed by a fall of coal whilst barring down coal after a shot had been fired. (DoMAR 1926)
1926 – Coal Cliff reports as having 419 men u/g and 113 at the surface. (DoMAR 1926)
1928 – Fatality – 20th Aug the onsetter and his assistant were both fatally injured while attempting to re-rail a skip at pit bottom. The cage was suddenly lifted away injuring both men.
1928 – Fatality – 17th Sep a miner was killed by a fall of stone at the face.
1934 – Fatality – 27th Feb, James Whitefield, miner, was killed by a fall of roof stone at the face of 4 Nth. (DoMAR 1934)
1937 saw the installation of a screening plant as a result of competition in the coal market. #
In 1938 the colliery became the first mine in Australia to extract pillars by mechanical means. This equipment comprised Sullivan scraper loaders and Blackett flight conveyors. It apparently worked quite successfully but was discontinued as a result of the prohibition of the use of machines in pillar extraction. #
Experimental work was also undertaken around this time on the water infusion of pillar coal to reduce the coal dust hazards. #
The colliery was put under the control of the Commonwealth Coal Commissioner from March, 1944 to March, 1947 because of lack of funds and industrial disputes.
1946 – Reported as working 209 days during 1946 (DoMAR 1946)
Some mechanisation in 1948 and the use of Goodman Duck Bill loaders in 1950#, proved unsatisfactory, the units being withdrawn in 1954.
At this time coal was transported in the main heading by an endless rope haulage system driven at 2.8 m.p.h. by a steam engine located on the surface and hoisted up a 330’ deep downcast shaft in one ton skips at the rate of 2 tons/wind. The non-condensing steam winder was equipped with a bi-conico-cylindrical drum with a rated capacity of 240 t/hr. #
Coal was extracted using a split and lift method of pillar extraction, the coal being transported by horse, direct and endless rope haulage. #
Ventilation was still supplied by the Sirocco centrifugal fan at the jetty site but due to excessive leakage underground only 50% of the 120,000 c.f.m. was available to the working districts. #
In 1954/5 Coal Cliff Collieries Ltd and the Illawarra Coke Company Ltd were purchased by Kembla Coal & Coke Pty Limited (owned by Broken Hill Associated Smelters Pty Limited) and a programme of modernisation was commenced. #
During the latter half of the 1950’s a cross measures drift was driven, a cable belt system installed, a 3’-6” gauge, diesel and battery loco track installed for men and materials transport.#
The drift was 2004’ with a maximum grade of 1 in 4. The vertical drop from portal to the end was 368’. Driven from both the surface and from underground (some 1200’ were driven from underground) the drift was supported in a variety of methods ranging from full concrete lining to straps with wedge type roof bolts. Sealing of the exposed strata was required virtually immediately upon completion because of the rapid deterioration of the shales upon the drift holing. #
A drift bottom shunting area was established including a diesel refuelling station. #
The 42” cable belt conveyor was 10,457 ft in length with a lift of 680 ft. was the world’s longest. 36” conveyors were installed in the panels. #
A new upcast shaft at Darkes Forest was sunk by Allied Constructions Pty Ltd. The 20’ dia. x 1511’ deep shaft being completed in 334 days, some 20,000 cu yds of material removed and lined with a minimum of 9” concrete. It was sunk conventionally using hand held sinkers and blasting. A stage mounted cactus grab was used in conjunction with a 2 bucket system of winding out the stone. #
On completion the shaft was fitted with a 2 stage 120” dia. axial flow fan manufactured by Hi-flow Fans Pty Limited with a provision for fitting a third stage if required. The fan was connected to the shaft collar via a 10’ dia. steel duct. #
Design performance was 260,000 c.f.m. @ 8” w.g. 480 r.p.m., 450 fan shaft h.p. @ 80% efficiency. #
Four Continuous miner panels were introduced to the colliery (6 South area) each comprising one Joy 1CM Continuous Miner, 1 11BU Joy Loader and two 10 SC/AC Shuttle Cars. Face ventilation by wide side, brattice line. Roof support was 14’ half rounds on 5” props with additional roof bolting where required. #
A new water reticulation system was installed using 6” victaulic pipes along the cable belt, 4: victaulic into the districts, 3” pipes were installed along the panel belts with 2” pipes in the immediate face areas. #
A 400 t.p.h. washery was constructed including a 65’ dia. thickener, Bradford Breaker, 2,000 ton Raw Coal Bin, 1,600 ton Product Bins, stockpile and reclamation conveyors. #
The new washery was at the time, the largest in the southern hemisphere. #
In 1959 ROM was 221,700 tons
In 1960 the Cable belt was extended to 12,550’ with a total lift of 700’. Running at 466 f.p.m. with an average capacity of 585 t.p.h., peaking at 750 t.p.h. for a period of up to 18 minutes. #
Two Joy 6CM Continuous Miner units were introduced into the 7 North area during 1960 with a third unit in February 1961. #
The capital outlay for this programme of modernisation to 7 continuous miner panels and associated services upgrade was in the vicinity of $10,000,000. #
Coal Cliff - 400 tph Washery ca, 1960
Kembla Coal & Coke Pty Ltd entered the international coal market in the early 1960s with Japanese coking coal markets.
1963 saw two shifted production in development work begin.
In February, 1963, a longwall was introduced, being replaced with an upgraded version after 9 months.
This also was withdrawn in 1965, the mine reverting to the Wongawilli method of pillar extraction.
In 1969 ROM was 1,417,680 tons
In the 1970s three additional ventilation shafts were sunk, two axial flow ventilation fans installed and two large underground bins constructed.
2 x 17’ diam. shafts plus 1 x 18’ diameter shaft, all approx. 1300’ deep.
2 x 500,000 h.p. axial flow fans on two of the new shafts.
The existing 20’ diameter #2 shaft was equipped with a man riding friction winder.
A new 450 man bathroom built adjacent to the man riding shaft
In 1970 Coal Cliff was trialling Joy 10CM-2A Fixed Head continuous miners in the Bulli seam.
D.G.Thomas was the Colliery Manager at Coal Cliff for Coal Cliff Collieries Pty Ltd.
The Darkes Forest Mine was created in 1971, all workings west of the Darkes Forest Shaft forming the new mine.
Coal Cliff Colliery ca. 1978
By 1978 successful Wongawilli system extraction under the Southern Freeway is achieved in panels 223 and 224. Further extraction proposed. (DoMAR 1978)
By 1980, Coalcliff was the largest underground mine in Australia, employing 988 with an output of more than 1.7 million tonnes per annum. (14th Dec. 1977, produced national underground record of 16,710 tonnes).
In 1980, Conzinc Riotinto of Australia Ltd (CRA) acquires KCC.
1982, Corrimal Coke Works acquired by KCC from Bellambi Coal Co. Pty Ltd. spending some $2.4 million on environmental improvements in the next six years.
1987, water infusion is trialled in an attempt to reduce dust while mining, proving successful.
- In April/May the average daily tonnage was 6755 tonnes with an OMS of 16.47 tonnes.
Panels 425 and 426 were operating. Voerst Alpine, remote controlled, self-propelled, breaker line roof supports were introduced replacing timber supports during pillar extraction.
On 29th February, 1988, Don Eager (General Manager, Engineering Services and Manager Vale Engineering) retires. Previously Don was the manager of Tom Thumb Colliery in 1967 and Huntley Colliery between 1968 and 1980.
October/November, 1988, KCC orders the first new continuous miner in 12 years for West Cliff Colliery (Joy12CM20)
Friday, 20th October, 1989, CZA (KCC’s parent company) purchases BP Australia’s coal business - US$275 million for Howick O/C, Tahmoor, Western Main and Clarence collieries.
1989, the development of the Kemcol Beaver (a joint venture between KCC and the Anderson Group) gets the go-ahead to produce the Mk II version.
October/November, 1990, the new Joy CM arrives at Coal Cliff Colliery.
January/March, 1991 sees the new radio controlled Joy CM working in tandem with a second miner.
The Joy 12CM20 purchased for ~$1.6 million proved unsuitable due to its “size, lack of visibility and clumsiness, chewing up the floor as it advanced.” The removal of some 6 tonnes from the front of the machine, modifications to the drill rigs made the machine “the best miner in the pit”.
After losing $11 million in 1990 due to difficult mining conditions, diminishing coal quality and ever increasing distances from entry to faces, it was decided that the mine had reached the end of its useful life and would be shut down.
The loss of coal production would be taken up by West Cliff Colliery and the recently acquired Tahmoor Mine.
Coal Cliff Colliery closed in 1991/92.
1993 – Following a decision in Oct. 1992, Coal Cliff has been sealed. Utilising a helicopter to access the jetty mine entries. (KCC Conveyor, Vol 8 #3, June/July1993)
By the end of 1994, three of the mine’s 500 metre shafts had been filled in with some 15,000 tonnes of coal washery waste and concrete blocks each, the fourth capped with concrete and kept as a ventilation shaft for KCC’s adjacent West Cliff mine.
2013 – Coal Cliff Cokeworks closed June 21st, 2013. Some equipment will be transferred to the Corrimal Cokeworks. Worldwide oversupply of coke, loss of domestic customers and the high Australian dollar all contributed to the closure. The site was also more expensive to operate than the Corrimal Cokeworks, the additional trucking distance to Port Kembla accounting for some $500,000. (Ill Merc 6/07/2013 p6)
Illawarra Mercury - Article by Paddy Ginnane, 1980.
“Coalcliff Colliery closed in 1991 after a life of 114 years.” Minfo No. 52, 1996.
# “Coal Cliff Colliery – Development and Operation”, Collin, 1961. Paper #8, The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy Annual Conference, 1961.
## “The Coal Cliff Colliery Adit and Jetty Tramway, 1797 to 1910”, Longworth, 2002, Light Railways No. 167.
###“Coal Cliff Mine” – 100 Years of Mining – 1978. Brochure – Research by Brian Rogers.
Additional information sourced from various editions of the CRA Gazette and the KCC Conveyor news letters.
Mine & Quarry Mechanisation, 1970
Dept. of Mines Annual Reports