2002 – 2003
Location: Russell Vale (The old Balgownie seam workings of Sth Bulli Colliery)
Owner: Allied Coal Pty Ltd
Manager: Project Manager – Ken Singer
1960 – During a major reorganisation of Sth Bulli Colliery the “recovery” of Gibson’s Tunnel for 53 chains with a drift from Gibson’s Tunnel extension to the main haulage was included.
1962 – Gibson’s Tunnel in No. 2 seam, is reclaimed and a drift driven to connect with the main haulage road. (DoMAR 1962)
2001 – 6th Jun – Hansard: Mr Carr announces a trial of advanced thin coal seam technology in the Illawarra to take place at Bellambi West Colliery (ex Sth Bulli), owned by Allied Coal Pty Ltd and at that time, employing 160 miners in the Bulli seam workings of that mine. This proposed mining was to take place in the Balgownie seam, last worked as the South Bulli “A” Mine which closed in 1982.
Seam thickness varies from 1.0 to 1.5 m of high quality coking coal with very low phosphorus content.
Thin Seam Mining Pty Ltd (TSM) is contracted by Allied Coal Pty Ltd to mine the Balgownie Seam at Gibson’s Colliery.
2002 Jan, – Progress – The portal was established behind the main office building at Russel Vale. The driveage intersected the old Gibson’s Tunnel brick portal arches. “Fosroc” cementatious grout was injected to assist in supporting the arches while steel roof supports were installed. Driveages were at 2.0m high with production during the second week of January reaching up to 100m per 9 hr shift (Ken Singer, 2002 “Gibson’s Colliery – Thin seam and ultra close mining” a paper presented at the 2002 Coal Operators Conference)
2002 29th Jan – Allied Coal Pty Ltd announces that Bellambi West is to close due to operational problems and equipment failure with the loss of some 190 jobs.
2002 14th Oct – Hunter Valley Coal Report – Announces that Bellambi West is to reopen. “Greater Pacific Capital” was nominated as the successful bidder for the colliery by owners, Allied Coal Holdings.
Thin Seam Mining negotiates a contract with GPC to mine the Balgownie seam.
GPC Bellambi pays $26million for the site.
2002 28th Oct – The Australian Industrial Relations Commission hands down award conditions to several mining companies including Thin Seam Mining Pty Ltd, Gibson Colliery, Broker Street, Russell Vale NSW 2517.
2003 7th May – Administrators appointed to Thin Seam Mining Pty Ltd.
2003 28th May – Illawarra Mercury – reports that the deal between Thin Seam Mining and Greater Pacific Capital has broken down.
Thin Seam Mining stood down 70 workers but hoped to implement a rescue plan with Global Capital Corporation.
Earl Cook, Thin Seam Mining general manager, was surprised at the change of mind shown by GPC Bellambi.
Accusations are levelled at GPC for being a “land developer not a coal miner”. Gary Williams, chief operating officer at GPC Bellambi made no comment.
2003 13th Jun – GPC Bellambi locks out its 50 or so employees from the Bellambi West mine site ending mining operations.
2003 3rd Nov – article in SMH. Reports of “rumblings” that GPC had a secret agenda: -the mine’s surface workings, covering some 800 ha, with elevated ocean views and adjacent to a golf course. These holdings were valued at some $100million, according to company documents. The company had already undertaken preliminary discussions concerning redevelopment with the Wollongong City Council in March, 2003.
GPC was founded in 2001 as a specialist property financier run by Alfred Wong and Danny Ah-Yeung, both from Hong Kong.
GPC already had an option over the old Huntley Heritage site (Huntley Colliery closed in 1989) with proposed redevelopment costs estimated at upwards of $100million.
Two years after Gibson’s Colliery was closed, the mining equipment left underground is retrieved. A joint venture between Bounty (the owner of the equipment) and Alterrain (a local Civil Geo-tech & Mining Contractor), salvaged a continuous miner, 3 shuttle cars, Fletcher roof bolter, breaker-feeder, 1 km conveyor belt and structure plus various electrical equipment during a 6 week period.