- 1883 four gentlemen were introduced to the location of coal in the Illawarra at a theoretical predictable depth based on earlier seam location data. They teamed up with a “large number” of men, with James Fletcher M.L.A. and John Coghlan forming the Cumberland Coal and Iron Mining Company in November of that year and taking up some 18,000 acres of land.
1884 drilling proves a 12 ft. 3 inch (3.73 m) seam of coal at 846 feet (257.9 m) depth in the vicinity of Camp Creek and the initial shaft site was selected. The 18,000 acres were split into two x 9,000 acre lots, the southern portion, and shaft site, incorporated as the South Cumberland Coal-mining Company. (SMH 4/4/1886)
1886 - 3rd March – A sod turning ceremony by Sir Robert Wisdom, shareholders and guests was held for the commencement of sinking South Cumberland Coal-mining Company’s No. 1 Shaft. (SMH 4/4/1886)
1886 – 2nd June – South Cumberland Coal-mining Company’s Manager, Mr. C. Harper, notifies DoM that contractors have commenced sinking a shaft at Camp Creek with one shift of men and horses until the engine is fixed (DoMAR 1886)
1886 – August – The Sydney Metropolitan Coal Company with a capital of £300,000 is announced (Sth Aust. Register 2/8/1886)
1887 – January. Fatality – R. W. Davis, a sinker for South Cumberland Co. at Camp Creek, by fall of earth in shaft. (DoMAR 1887)
1887 – South Cumberland Sinking Shaft – Now at 950 ft. Three shifts of sinkers employed, eight on each shift (DoMAR 1887)
1888 – 21st Jan – Tenders (closing 18th February) are called for the sinking of an Air-shaft on the property of Metropolitan Coal Company of Sydney, Limited. Shaft will be circular, 15 ft. (5.22 m) in the clear and approx. 1000 ft. in depth. Specs examined at the colliery, Camp Creek, Helensburgh (SMH 21/01/1888)
1888 – Colliery opened March - reaching coal at 1095 ft. and piercing the seam of 13 ft. (3.96 m) of clean coal. (DoMAR 1887)
1888 – June. Fatality – William C. Turnbull, a sinker at Camp Creek, by fall of stone from roof at shaft bottom. He left a widow and three children. (DoMAR 1888)
1888 – July – Ten trucks of coal per week are being sent to Sydney. (Bayley, William. A., “Black Diamonds”1969)
1888 – 6th August. Fatality – Charles Harper, Colliery Manager, Metropolitan Colliery, killed during the placement of a boiler when the haulage rope snapped. (DoMAR 1888 Western Mail 11/08/1888)
1888 – The winding shaft is 451 ft. (137.46 m) above sea level, 16 ft. (4.88 m) in diameter, 1098 ft. (334.67 m) to No. 1 Seam and a further 46 ft. (14.02 m) to No. 2 Seam. The ventilation shaft, 15 ft. (5.22 m) in diameter is in the course of sinking. Expectations are of raising 800 rising to 1,000 tons per day. The colliery currently employs 25 men above ground and 20 men u/g, raising 4,220 tons during the year.
“About 10 men are employed u/g and supplied with 3,000 cfm by one of “Gracie’s Patent Fans” worked by an engine on the surface and conducted down the shaft by 10 ½ inch (267 mm) diameter pipes” (DoMAR 1888)
However a 180’ fault, not previously detected, occurred between the shafts with the Bulli seam workings from the main shaft meeting a seam of cindered coal and of similar thickness.
It was some time before it was realised that a fault had occurred and that it was the #4 seam that had been encountered. Subsequently a drive was set up the fault to meet the second shaft.
It is to be noted that free carbon monoxide was encountered during the driving of this drift, a rather rare occurrence.
Sellers. G. 1976 – The Illawarra Coalfield – A Brief History to 1905. a paper presented to the AusIMM Conference, Illawarra, May 1976.
1889 – 21st April – Fatality – Francis McNamara, 32, miner, is killed by stone falling down the sinking shaft (DoMAR 1889). The inquiry determined that the stone/brick must have fallen from within the shaft (SMH 23/4/1889)
1889 – 19th August – A monument to Mr. Charles Harper is unveiled in the Bulli C of E Cemetery. Erected by miners and friends, the ceremony was attended by his widow and his son Mr. Boyd Harper (SMH 19/08/1889)
1889 – The Metropolitan Coal Company of Sydney is raising an additional £30,000 capital in London (Launceston Examiner 4/12/1889)
1890 - Connected to the Gov. Railway by a siding (“A Railway History of the Illawarra”)
1893 – 21st January – Fatality – George Patterson, Deputy, killed by fall of stone whilst drawing a prop. (DoMAR 1893)
1893 – 11th May – Fatality – Osmond Arthur Welch, miner, struck by fall of coal, died several days later. (DoMAR 1893)
1893 – The Colliery employs some 285 below and 46 men above ground. (DoMAR 1893)
1895 – 30th September – First reported outburst in Bulli seam (Historical Aspects of Bulli Seam Outbursts, Dr. Chris Harvey, Gas & Coal Outburst Seminar, 2010)
1896 – 12th February – Fatality – Giles Vickery, 50, miner, fall of roof stone. (DoMAR 1896)
1896 – 10th June – 3 Fatalities – Enoch Pugh, miner, James Barton, miner, Henry J. L. Shipton, wheeler, suffocated by an outburst of coal and gas (DoMAR 1896)
Early workings proceeded to the north east with large quantities of gas (methane) being met.
Due to the large quantities of gas encountered, from 1897, Metropolitan Colliery used oil flame safety lamps exclusively as opposed to the naked lights used by all the mines at the time. The Evans – Thomas style of lamp was used.
This same gas also made Metropolitan the only mine not to employ furnace ventilation but to install a massive fan from the outset.
1899 – 20th October – Fatality – Oliver Hickman, 42, miner, fall of coal at face (DoMAR 1899)
1901 - The main winder shaft was 16’ diameter and the ventilation shaft 15’
The winding engines were 2 x 36” cylinders of 900hp with a 28 second winding period from shaft bottom to top. The winding shaft was equipped with wire rope guides.
The mine was ventilated by a Schiele fan, 20’ diam. x 7’ wide with a Walker’s shutter, operating at 130 rpm passing 350,000 cfm at 4-1/2” w.g.
Pittman, E. 1901 -”Mineral Resources of NSW”
1901 – 31st May – Fatality – Arnold James Downes, 40, miner, crushed against a tub by a horse, succumbing to injuries on 4/6/1901 (DoMAR 1901)
1902 – 14th October – Fatality – George Featonby, miner, died from natural causes (DoM 1902)
1902 – 12th December – Fatality – Henry James Watson, 50, miner, fall of face coal (DoM 1902)
In the years leading up to 1902 the mine had the largest output of the southern coalfield.
1903 – 13th May – Fatality – David Lombard, 56, miner, fall of face stone (DoM 1903)
1903 – DoM receives notification as to Mr. J. Jefferies no longer being responsible as Mine Manager from 1/8/1903. Some 391 persons are employed u/g with 99 at the surface. A second “Walker” indestructible fan, 24 ft. in diameter, has been erected giving the colliery two complete ventilating units. (DoMAR 1903)
1904 – March – A brief mine description;
The Bulli seam is worked having a thickness of 11 ft. of which some 6 to 7 ft. is extracted. Depth is 1,100 ft. Manager Mr. D. A. W. Robertson.
Main shaft; 16ft diameter; air shaft 15 ft. diameter.
Winding engines are a pair of 36” cylinder of 900 h.p. (indicated). Steam is by Lancashire boilers.
Ventilation is by 2 Walker-Schiele fans (one at a time), 20 ft. x 7 ft. and 24 ft. x 8 ft. 130 rpm 400,000 to 420,000 cfm at 4.5” w.g.
Haulage is by 3 systems of endless rope, worked independently by 3 separate plants. Also self-acting inclines to feed the main rope where suitable. (Parton, Thomas. 1904, Coal & Coal Mining in NSW)
1904 – 25th January – Fatality – Thomas (William?) Brien, 26, wheeler, crushed between his horse and a full tub of coal. (DoMAR 1904)
1904 – 27th October – Fatality – Thomas Williams, 40, miner, fall of face coal. (DoMAR 1904)
1904 – The Colliery employs some 402 below and 94 above ground. (DoMAR 1904)
1905 - Metropolitan Colliery produced some 291,618 tons with a workforce of 509 men.
1906 – Mine Manager listed as J. S. Rowe, U/manager as A. Stewart (DoMAR 1906)
1908 – 22nd October – Fatality – James William Lenham, 26, miner, timber drawing. (DoMAR 1908)
1908 – 17th December – Fatality – Emile Wenlock Cunningham, 16, clipper, fatally injured by trolley attached to an endless rope (DoMAR 1908)
1910 – 8th July – Fatality – Negis Edwin Hunt, 39, roadsman, knocked down by a wheeler’s horse and crushed under the first five loaded tubs. (DoMAR 1910)
1912 – F. Danvers Powers in his “Coalfields and Collieries of Australia” describes the Metropolitan Colliery of 1912 in relative detail, particularly the mechanics of the winders etc.
1913 – 29th June – Fatality – Thomas T. Brodie, 27, fitter, fell some 960 feet down the shaft while attempting to repair a pump about 150 feet from the surface (DoMAR 1913)
1913 – Metropolitan employs 352 men u/g and 103 at the surface (DoMAR 1913)
1915 – 2nd August – Fatality – Alexander Potter, 30, miner, physical injuries as a result of a 3 ton fall of rib coal (DoMAR 1915)
1915 – Metropolitan employs 377 men u/g and 114 at the surface (DoMAR 1915)
1915 – Commences to supply electrical power to Helensburgh
1916 – 2nd October – Fatality – Charles Phillip Hargraves, 26, wheeler, fell under loaded tubs in his charge when his horse became detached from them (DoMAR 1916)
1916 – Metropolitan employs 293 men u/g and 94 at the surface (DoMAR 1916)
1917 – 11th April – Fatality – Joseph Edwards alias Joseph Russell, 40, miner, roof fall at the face (DoMAR 1917)
1920 – 3rd February – Fatality – James Vardy, 74, greaser, killed by runaway skips while greasing rollers on the main dip haulage road (DoMAR 1920)
1920 – Mr. J. S. Rowe is listed as Mine Manager, Mr. G. Morgan as U/Manager (DoMAR 1920)
1921 – The colliery is purchased by shipping company Huddart Parker Ltd
1924 - Metropolitan employs 429 men u/g and 125 at the surface (DoMAR 1924)
1924 – November – Fatality – Francis CT Vernon (Helensburgh’s 125th Anniversary Address – Historical Society)
1925 – 27th July - Fatalities - An outburst kills 2 men and 1 horse. Frederick Green, miner and George West, miner, were asphyxiated during a CO2 gas outburst at 11.30 am. Approximately 140 tons of coal was ejected from the vicinity of a 5 m fault).
1926 - Metropolitan employs 442 men u/g and 121 at the surface (DoMAR 1926)
1927 – 2nd August - Fatality – George Buxton, miner, is killed by a roof fall. (DoMAR 1927 and Helensburgh Historical Society)
1927 – Three overwinds at the main shaft; 14th June, 29th September, 28th November.
1927 - Metropolitan employs 423 men u/g and 121 at the surface (DoMAR 1927)
1929 – Death by natural causes – a miner takes ill and died shortly afterwards. (DoMAR 1929)
1929 - Metropolitan employs 427 men u/g and 127 at the surface (DoMAR 1929)
1931 - December - Fatality – William Bendon, miner, dies during an operation to amputate his leg due to injuries suffered in a roof fall. (DoMAR 1931 and Helensburgh Historical Society)
1932 – 19th January – Fatality - John Sweeny, asst. Deputy, caught between rope and return roller. (DoMAR 1932 and Helensburgh Historical Society)
1932 – 19th February – Death by natural causes – B. Worton, labourer, collapsed and died on the surface. (DoMAR 1932)
1934 – A modern coal handling and cleaning plant installed. (DM Report 1934)
1934 – 10th July – Fatality - John Hewitt, miner, killed by fall of roof stone in 4 West. (DoMAR 1934)
1942 – July – Fatality – George Thomas (Helensburgh Historical Society)
1946 – Reported as working 174 days in 1946 (DoMAR 1946)
1952 – January – Fatality – George Robert Hill (Helensburgh Historical Society)
1954 – 2nd December - Fatalities - An outburst kills 2 machine men, Vernard W. Senescall and Lionel Jennings, by asphyxiation, while rendering the boring m/c operator unconscious, 150 tons of material are dislodged from the face which was at the apex of two major faults (DoMAR 1954 and Helensburgh Historical Society)
Metropolitan Colliery now using inducer shotfiring for outburst prevention
1954 – A 3600’ drift replaces the down cast winder
1955 - The last of the 160 full height pit horses retires
New “BGE” 300 tph Coal Washery ca 1960
1965 – Metropolitan colliery is purchased by A I & S
1965 – October – Fatality – John North Stephen “Jack” Rae (Helensburgh Historical Society)
1966 - Mechanisation completed
1968 – February – Fatality – Clifford Thomas Cross (Helensburgh Historical Society)
1974 – 17th October – Fatality – Robert George (Tiger Bob) Payne, 54. (Helensburgh Historical Society)
1979 – 26th March - ~1 ton outburst, SE Panel (BHP data)
1979 – 9th May – 20-30 ton outburst, 2SW Panel (BHP data)
1979 – 24th August – minor outburst in the “Slants” (BHP data)
1982 – 22nd October – 10-15 tonne outburst, 2NW Panel (BHP data)
1986 – The colliery is purchased by Savage Resources from AI & S with production increasing from 300,000 t.p.a to 500,000 t.p.a before on selling to Denehurst.
Coal is the Bulli seam, 3.0 – 3.5 m thick, 0.4% sulphur, low ash, 7300 kj/kg, non-fusing ash thermal coal.
1989 - Purchased by Denehurst from Savage Resources in January for $10,000,000
Denehurst acquires 90% interest in mine.
1992 – April – Fatality – Gary Kerr (Helensburgh Historical Society)
After several profitless years, the workforce was reduced from 245 to 145, with an enterprise agreement being lodged with the Coal Industrial Tribunal in April 1993.
A turn around involving the Westfalia longwall installation, the upgrading of the washery and associated facilities had development being outstripped by the longwall production.
The gas drainage crews were tripled to 16 drillers and three dedicated deputies.
Metropolitan became one of the few mines in Australia to use the Long-Airdox VersaTrac battery powered front end loader.
At this point the longwall was operating 3 x 8 hours/day, and with development produced some 7,000 t.p.d. The first longwall block was 1200m x 115m at a seam height of 3.0 – 3.5m.
This longwall installation and upgrade exceeded $27m.
1995 – January – Outburst recorded on a small strike-slip fault.
1995 – Longwall 1 commenced. A converted Fletcher bolter was converted into a drilling rig to locate a dyke extrapolated into the area.
Deviating exploratory boreholes failed to accurately locate the dyke, and Longwall 2 was unable to penetrate the intrusion.
By June 1996 the drilling crews had lost their dedicated deputies but all 16 of them were “flat out” drilling gas drainage (mainly carbon dioxide) holes and installing gas drainage pipe work to the main range. Maddocks, Paul. 21/6/96 pers. com. to B. Sheldon.
November 13th, 1996, the mine reverts to “care & maintenance” with some 137 employees being retrenched with some 24 remaining.
Watson, Bruce, December, 1996, Common Cause.
December 1996, the administrator, Nick Brooke, Price Waterhouse, seemed to have brokered a deal to retain 112 mineworkers for a period of 12 months however uncertainty again raised its head until In early 1997, Allied Mining stepped in and kept the mine operational.
Watson, Bruce, February, 1997, Common Cause.
1997, the Denehurst administrators appoint Allied Meridian Mining to salvage mine three short longwall blocks, 3, 4 & 5 on a contract basis.
Mining restarted in early 1997, the closure allowing good gas drainage from the coal. Longwall 1 had been 100 metres long the next block averaging 650 metres.
Mining was again stopped only to restart on 17th May 1999 under new owners SADA Pty Ltd & operator, Helensburgh Coal Pty Ltd, and a workforce of 60 - 72 men. “CFMEU fax” 4th May, 1999.
Note; SADA and its owner, Max Dunbier, acquired new equipment including two new Eimco 130 LHDs, three battery powered Versatrac units for longwall change outs and a Boart-Longyear LMC 55 624 Drill Rig for gas drainage.
Gas drilling was undertaken by a Cram rig and 3 x 2 men crews utilising an Eastman Single Shot survey tool at 25 metre intervals. The acquisition of an AMT survey tool, hired from VLD, improved the drilling rates. An extra drill crew was then employed to carry out gas content sampling.
Manning was increased to 95 by the end of year 2000.
2002 – Metropolitan Collieries, the mine’s owner and mine operator, Helensburgh Coal, was acquired by SouthCoal, Tony De Santis becoming the general manager of Metropolitan.
SouthCoal is a private company owned by four partners;
Excel Equities (27.8%)
Eureka Capital Partners (13.9%)
Resource Capital Funds (RCF) from the US (35%)
Sada Pty Ltd (23.3%)
2002 – The Mine was acquired by Excel Coal Ltd and by the end of May, 2004, the longwall face increased from 135 to 158 metres and upgrading the drift conveyor to 600 tonnes per hour. [Excel also owned 50% of Illawarra Coke, operating at Coal Cliff and Corrimal]
2006 – 25th October; Excel Coal Ltd is acquired by Peabody Energy Corp. Peabody Pacific Pty Ltd is a subsidiary of Peabody Energy. The Metropolitan Colliery is now owned and operated by Helensburgh Coal Pty Ltd (HCPL) a wholly owned subsidiary of Peabody Pacific Pty Ltd.
2007 – Scott Lowe is General Manager HCPL
2009 – Snapshot; Bulli seam 3.0 – 3.4m at 450 – 500m cover. ROM: 1,650,700 tonnes (2008). Commenced longwall mining, July 1995. Current shearer; Eickhoff EDW300/380 DERDS. M/g drum 2.0, T/g 2.0m. Face Support; Bucyrus, 2 leg chock, shield x 80.
Development; 1 x Bucyrus 30MB miner bolter, 1 x Joy 12CM30 & 1 x Dash 3 continuous miners. 1 x Waracar, 2 x Highlander and 2 x Joy 15SC shuttle cars. (Coal Services Report 2009)
2011 – Trials with the underground emplacement of coal rejects as a pumpable high density slurry are undertaken with some 15,000 tonnes being emplaced between May and October. (A paper was presented to the February 2012 Coal Operators Conference – University of Wollongong.)
2012 April, info – SouthCoal Pty Ltd owns and operates the Metropolitan Mine. Based in Sydney, SouthCoal Pty Ltd operates as a subsidiary of Peabody Energy Corp.
2015 – Peabody Energy confirms plans to reduce its Metropolitan mine workforce by 20-25%, around 80 workers. (Ill Merc. 27/06/2015 p1 &4)
2016 – Peabody Energy reveals the future of Metropolitan Colliery is uncertain due to possible bankruptcy. Low coal prices and poor markets have been blamed for the world wide downturn. (Ill Merc. 18/03/2016)
2016 – 3rd Nov, South32 Ltd announces that it has entered into a binding agreement to acquire the Metropolitan Colliery and their 16.67% of PKCT from Peabody Energy Corporation (Peabody). Cash consideration of US$200M, Completion is anticipated in the March 2017 quarter. Estimated 375 miners are employed.
2016 – 23rd Dec, a gas outburst occurs on the longwall face releasing a volume of carbon dioxide with a small cavity being formed high in the face. No injuries were reported. (Dept. of Industry Safety Alert 18/1/2017)
2017 – 4th Jan, an outburst consisting of the release of a large volume of carbon dioxide and a violent ejection of coal from the longwall face resulting in the obstruction of the passage across the face. No injuries were reported. The shearer had just passed a faulted zone when the operators heard a loud noise the shearer driver and support operator being covered in fine coal dust and their personal gas detectors alarmed. (Dept. of Industry Safety Alert 18/1/2017)
2017 – 18th Apr, South 32 announces that the proposed $200m buy-out of Metropolitan Colliery has been abandoned. (Ill Merc. 19/04/2017 p3)
DoMAR = Department of Mines Annual Report
1883 – 1887 Cumberland Coal & Iron Mining Co.
1887 – 1921 Metropolitan Coal Co. of Sydney Ltd.
1921 – 1965 Huddart Parker Ltd (Shipping)
1965 – 1986 Australian Iron & Steel (BHP)
1986 – 1989 Savage Resources
1989 – 1996 Denehurst/Kanematsu
1996 – 1997 Under administration
1997 – 1998 Allied Meridian as contractor
1998 – 1999 Under administration
1999 – 2002 Sada Pty Ltd.
2002 – 2004 SouthCoal Pty Ltd.
2004 – 2007 Excel Coal
2007 – 2017 Peabody
Details to 2016 as per Peabody
Addendum 1 – OUTBURST 10th June 1896
Extract from the 1896 Dept. of Mines Annual Report.
Addendum 1 – OUTBURST 27th July 1925
Extracts from the 1925 Dept. of Mines Annual Report.