In 1884 Thomas Bertram forwarded a sample of coal taken from land owned by the Brokers Nose Coal Company to the NSW Mines Department and advised them of his plans to open a mine.    

In 1885, mining commenced under the name of Brokers Nose Colliery. Tunnels were driven into the Bulli seam and an incline tramway was built from the mine, down the mountainside to the foot of the escarpment. Delays in the completion of the South Coast Railway line, and the colliery’s lack of access to that line at Corrimal, led to the Brokers Nose Coal Company being placed in liquidation in 1887 and mining was suspended.    

In November 1888 the Southern Coal Company (SCC), a powerful English company, took over a lease of the mine. A major upgrade of the colliery commenced and the mine became known as the Corrimal Colliery. 

The South Coast Railway line was completed in 1888. A standard gauge rail line was laid from the base of the incline tramway and linked to the South Coast Railway line at Corrimal. The Southern Coal Company steam locomotives, rail wagons and the jetty standing idle from the abandoned Mount Kembla mine project were used to handle the export of coal from the mine.   

 

 Endless Rope Incline Haulage (Pit Top in the background) 

With these improvements completed the daily production from the mine increased to 1,000 tonnes per day in 1889 and an increasing number of men were employed at the mine.    

In 1890 a total of eighty men were employed at the mine until a strike by those employees, in support of the nationwide Maritime Strike, brought work at the colliery to a halt. Sixty free labourers were employed for the period October to December of that year as replacement mine workers.    

The Southern Coal Company continued to operate the mine on a lease basis after the mine property was purchased by G S Youll and Company Ltd in 1891.    

In 1900 a mechanical ventilation fan was installed to replace the furnace shaft and this resulted in a marked improvement in the ventilation of the mine.    

Corrimal - Balgownie Collieries Company Ltd    

In 1902 the Southern Coal Company changed its company name to the Corrimal-Balgownie Collieries Company Ltd.    

In 1906 a 29 metre upthrow fault in the Bulli Seam was intersected in the southern workings of the colliery. A drift (inclined tunnel) with a slope of 1 in 3.5 was driven through the fault to intersect the seam beyond the fault. This restored access to the Bulli coal seam and enabled continued development of the mine to the south and south west.    

This change in elevation of the coal seam led to new entrances to the colliery being established about 2.5 km to the south of the original Brokers Nose entries. The skips brought to the surface were hauled by locomotive around the escarpment by steam locomotive to the top of the incline haulage at the Brokers Nose mine entries. The skips were attached to the original incline haulage and lowered down the mountainside to the Screening plant and the empty skip returned to mine portal.       

In 1906 the sinking of a shaft behind the escarpment was commenced to improve the mine ventilation. This No.1 Shaft was approximately 245 m in depth and located approximately 2.7 km west of the mine entries. The completed shaft was 4.3 m in diameter and lined with bricks made on site. When completed in 1908 the shaft was equipped with a surface mounted shaft winder powered by a steam engine and a winding cage capable of accommodating eight persons. The shaft was utilised initially as a downcast (intake airflow) ventilation shaft.

In 1911 a 2.3 m diameter Sirocco ventilation fan driven by a 110 kW electric motor was installed on the No.1 Shaft, converting it to an upcast ventilation role.     

Corrimal Coke Works

In 1912 a Coke Works comprised of a battery of 40 coke ovens, was erected adjacent to the South Coast Railway and Corrimal rail station. This plant had the capacity to produce 700 tonnes of coke per week using small coal supplied from the mine and was the first coke ovens plant in Australia to recover waste heat gas to generate electricity. A 400 kW electricity generation plant was installed at the coke works with 250 kW of the output delivered to the mine by an overhead power line and the remaining 150 kW used to power equipment at the coke works.    

As the Corrimal-Balgownie Colliery mine workings developed to the west, a second ventilation shaft became necessary. In 1923 preparations commenced to sink the No.2 Shaft. The brick lined 5.2 m diameter shaft was completed in October 1926. The shaft intersected the Bulli seam at a depth of 342 m and was used as a downcast (intake airflow) shaft.    

In 1927 the company entered into an agreement with the North Illawarra Municipal Council to supply power from the Corrimal Coke works power station for domestic use, street lighting and industrial use within the Council’s area of responsibility. These arrangements were later replaced by the State electricity supply grid, circa 1934.    

Corrimal Coal and Coke Pty Ltd    

In 1937 the name of the company was changed from the Corrimal-Balgownie Collieries Ltd to Corrimal Coal and Coke Pty Ltd.

In 1939 an electric coal cutting machine was installed along with hand held electric boring machines. This marked the first step of the progressive introduction of mechanised mining and the abandonment of the contract system of hand worked mining.    

In 1945 a substation supplied from the 33 kV State electricity supply grid was erected at the mine. The No.2 Shaft was changed from a downcast to an upcast shaft when a 2.4 metre diameter axial flow mine fan powered by a 185 kW electric motor was installed. As part of this change the mine fan at the No.1 Shaft was taken out of service and the shaft converted to a downcast ventilation role. The shaft winder drive system was converted from steam power to an electric motor drive and remained in service for personnel winding and statutory inspection purposes until 1962.    

In 1955 a new incline haulage, with a wide gauge track, was installed adjacent to the Corrimal Colliery portal. The coal was delivered to the surface of the mine in small coal skips. At the surface the coal was screened and then loaded into two 15 tonne capacity, purpose built drop-bottom cars (wagons). These cars operated in tandem on a “two cars up - two cars down” cycle driven by friction hoist rope haulage system with a passing loop in the centre of the incline. The coal delivered to the bottom of the incline was discharged into coal storage bins attached to a Coal Preparation Plant (washery) erected as part of a complete redesign of the mine’s surface coal handling facilities.    

 1955 - Incline Haulage passing loop with Coal Preparation Plant in background

In 1959 the first continuous miner and shuttle car unit, complete with a mobile roof bolting machine, was introduced. These combinations of mining machinery, were referred to as “continuous miner units”, and progressively replaced the conventional mining machinery referred to as “cutter and loader units” installed in earlier years. This change in mining equipment was accompanied by the installation of panel and trunk conveyor belt systems. The trunk conveyor discharged coal into narrow gauge skips hauled to and from the surface by the endless rope haulage system.    

Australian Iron & Steel Pty Ltd    

In 1964 Australian Iron & Steel Pty Ltd (AI&S) purchased the Corrimal Colliery and Coke Works and commenced a program of major improvements to both the underground and surface plant. The changes included the replacement of the endless rope coal haulage system used to deliver the coal to the mine surface. A coal storage bin was excavated above the Bulli Seam on the boundary of Corrimal Colliery and the adjacent Kemira Colliery. This arrangement enabled coal mined in Corrimal Colliery to be delivered by conveyor into the bin and loaded out onto the already established trunk conveyor belt system in the Kemira Colliery. The Corrimal coal was transported with Kemira coal to the surface Coal Handling Plant in the Kemira Valley and loaded into coal trains for haulage to the Port Kembla Steelworks.    

The Transport Road was refurbished with a 1,067 mm gauge rail track laid from the surface to underground. This enabled the use of diesel powered personnel cars for the transport of people and the delivery of materials and plant in and out of the mine using flat top trolleys hauled by battery locomotives.    

An outdoor substation and indoor switch room were constructed on the surface. The substation was supplied from the AI&S collieries 33 kV overhead transmission line system. This power supply enabled the mine to be supplied with an increased capacity 6.6 kV system.    

Three gas “outbursts” occurred in 1967 whilst mining in a geologically disturbed area known as 2 South West. Safety control measures were adopted that included the drilling of large diameter in-seam boreholes ahead of the coal face to provide relief from further outbursts as the mining operations advanced.    

In 1969 the Bellambi Coal Company purchased the Corrimal Coke Works, sourcing the small coal required to operate the plant from its South Bulli Colliery. The Coke Works changed owner again in 1984 when it was purchased by the Illawarra Coke and Coal Company, the operator of the Coal Cliff Coke Works.    

In 1970/71 the Corrimal No.3 Shaft was sunk as a downcast ventilation shaft. The shaft was 5.5 metres in diameter, concrete lined, and reached the floor of the Bulli Seam at a depth of 388 m from the surface. The shaft was sunk and lined to a total depth of 436 m to enable a fully automatic bulk skip winder system to be installed in the shaft.    

No.3 Shaft Bulk Skip Hoist    

In 1975 the bulk skip winder was commissioned having a hoisting capacity of 600 tonnes per hour. The coal wound to the surface through the shaft was discharged onto an enclosed conveyor belt system which delivered the coal into storage bins located adjacent to Picton Road. The coal in these bins was loaded onto road trucks and transported to the O’Brien’s Drift unloading station. O’Brien’s Drift is a sloping tunnel excavated through the mountain range and a conveyor belt installed to deliver the coal into an above rail storeage bin. The coal was loaded into wagons for haulage by train to the Port Kembla Steelworks.    

 No.3 Shaft Bulk Skip Hoist, enclosed Surface Conveyor and Coal Storage Bins 

A 6.6 kV cable was suspended in the No.3 shaft to provide a power supply to the underground mining equipment from a location closer to the current mining operations areas of the mine.