Metropolitan Colliery

Mining operations at the Metropolitan Colliery commenced in March 1886, accompanied by an official ceremony to mark the turning of the first sod for the sinking of the No1 shaft. The shaft struck the coal seam on 14 March 1888. The plans to open a mine followed The Cumberland Coal Company being granted a long term lease of 18000 acres (6020 ha) of Crown land in the Parish of Heathcote, and in 1883 commence the sinking of a number of prospecting boreholes. In November 1884 the results of this prospecting confirmed that the coal seams being successfully mined in the Illawarra to the south were present below the surface and a site nearby Camp Creek was chosen as the site to sink two shafts and develop a mine. The capital funding required to open the mine were raised in England, after attempts in Australia were unsuccessful. The Metropolitan Coal Company was floated in London in 1886 with a Directorate of the Company based in Sydney. In 1886 the Metropolitan Coal Company was registered in Sydney.    

The mine site was located 28 miles (45 km) from Sydney. The Sydney to Wollongong rail line was under construction nearby at that time, and would provide the opportunity to deliver coal by rail to markets that could include the State railways, visiting shipping and customers in the Sydney area.    

Sinking of two vertical shafts commenced in 1886 and the No1 or Bulli Seam was intersected by the No1 Shaft in March 1888 at a depth of 1095 ft. (335 m) with the No2 Shaft reaching the seam in 1889 after intersecting a 220 ft. (60 m) fault lying above the Bulli seam that was to delay the completion of the sinking and providing a roadway linking the two shaft underground. Orders were placed overseas for the supply of the major plant and included shaft headframes and winding engines, steam power plants, mine roadway haulage engines, mine ventilation fans. Work commenced on the construction of a spur line to the passing Sydney to Wollongong rail line, rail wagon handling loop lines and shunting areas along with surface and administration buildings.    

A daily production of 40 to 50 tonnes of saleable coal was achieved during 1888 and whilst the coal was very easy to mine and explosives were not required, the seam was very gassy, and all underground employees were provided with locked oil flame safety lamps. At the start of mining in 1889, 74 men were employed and production for that year reached 14,500 tons. In 1893 the men employed had increased to 331 and the mine recorded an annual production of 194,500tons.    

                                   

 Metropolitan Colliery Circa.1915

The mine was the first in Australia to encounter the outbursting of gas from the seam when a high pressure pocket of carbon dioxide and/or methane gases, resulted in the deaths of 3 men in June 1895. Further outbursts led to both fatal and non fatal injuries to miners and pit ponies from suffocation. Outbursting became a feature of this mine whilst ongoing preventative measures were researched, trialled and adopted. (Outbursts accounted for the death of 7 men at the mine, 3 in 1896, 2 in 1925, and 2 in 1954.)    

                                      

   No2 Upcast Shaft Headframe & Mine Vent. Fans Building & Steam Power Plant.

As the mine developed electric generating plant was installed to satisfy the mines increased needs for electric power and to supply, for a time the township of Helensburgh and the nearby Waterfall Sanatorium.    

The Contract system of mining ceased in 1951 and the progressive introduction of the mechanised mining equipment, that began in the 1950’s followed. The Shaft skip winding coal haulage system was replaced by the driving of an inclined drift from the surface to underground. A seam to surface Conveyor belt coal haulage system and rail track system, supported by a direct rope haulage was installed for transporting Personnel and Materials in out of the mine.    

A Coal Preparation Plant was erected in the late 1950’s. The plant has been the subject of a number of major upgrades and continues to operate at this time. During the AI&S ownership of the mine washed coal from the plant was purchased by the BHP Newcastle Steel Works for Coke making.

The mine was purchased by AI&S in 1965. A major refurbishment of the mine site was undertaken as part of plans to increase the production capacity of the mine and improve the existing mine facilities. This work included an upgrade of the mines power supply system and the No2 Shaft Koepe Personnel Winder. The mine surface working area was increased by infilling and providing the drainage of a valley crossing the surface area, constructing a covered access way from the Bathroom/Lamp Cabin/Mine Office complex to the Drift Portal area, and addressing the environmental issues related to the mine site.        

A ventilation shaft was sunk in the south western area of the mine lease in 1976 and a modern Mine Ventilation Fan installed to support the increased underground ventilation needs of the mine.

Several changes in the ownership of the mine followed the AI&S sale of the mine in 1987.These changes including a reduction in employees and on several occasions a doubtful future for the continued operation of the mine.    

In 1995 the owners at that time, introduced the Longwall system of mining. This method of mining brought with it  the need for careful consideration of the covering surface areas, natural and manmade features, water storage dams and their catchment areas, roadways and adjacent  streams and water ways.    

The mine has experienced over its very long life a succession of owners, and is currently owned and operated by the Peabody Energy Company who purchased the mine in 2007. 

 

TIMELINE

(Timeline prepared with the assistance of Mr. John Arney)

 

1883 (a)

Cumberland Coal Company takes up a Lease of 18000 Acres (6000ha) Crown Land Parish of Heathcote

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1884/5

Prospecting Boreholes sunk on the above lands confirmed the presence of coal. 

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1886(a)

Capital funding to open a mine obtained in England. Metropolitan Coal Co. floated in London with a Directorate of the Company based in Sydney.

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1886 (b)

A Ceremony marks the turning of the first sod and the start of sinking of the No1& No2 Shafts. 

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1886(c)

Metropolitan Coal Company registered Sydney

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1886(d)

Mine site is Camp Creek 28miles (45Km) from Sydney and adjacent to the Sydney/Wollongong Rail Line under construction.

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1888(a)

Charles Harper the Mine Manager killed in an accident on the mine surface.

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1888(b)

No1 Shaft reaches the Bulli Seam at a depth of 1095 ft. (335ms)

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1888(c)

Orders placed for major plant items, Shaft Headframe &Winding Engine, Rope Haulages, Ventilation Fans, Steam Power Plant etc. 

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1888(d)

Coal production commences. Coal easy to mine but very gassy. All underground employees issued with oil flame safety lamps. 

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1888(e)

Two surface mounted Fans providing ventilation of mine workings via tubing installed in No1 Shaft

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1889(a)

74 men employed at the mine.

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1889(b)

No2 Shaft reaches the Bulli Seam at a depth of 1060 ft. (324ms) A major fault intersected as shaft approached the Bulli Seam. The Fault causes delay in linking the No1&2 Shafts in the seam

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1890(a)

Spur Line to the Sydney/Wollongong Rail Line completed.

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1890(b)

All mines were affected by the Maritime Strike for six months of this year. 

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1891(a)

Vice Regal visit to the mine by Lord Jersey & party

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1891(b)

Surface plant equipment and No1 Shaft Winder in service. Largest Shaft winder in Australia. Hoists 7.0 tons coal in skips from seam to surface in 28 seconds

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1892

280 men employed. Production for the year 155,000 Tons

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1893(a)

Mine Ventilation Fan installed on No2 Shaft. Large Diameter high capacity  Walker-Schiele Fan.

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1893(b)

331 men employed. Production 194,500 Tons.

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1894

328 men employed. Production 182,000 tons 

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1895(a)

A gas outburst in the seam causes the death of three miners and a horse. The very first incident of gas outbursting in a coal mine in Australia.

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1895(b)

Ongoing work/research/and changes in mining practices commenced to eliminate further accidents from seam gas outbursts. 

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1896

300 men employed, production 240,000 tons (Highest annual production of all other mines on the South Coast).

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1900

Koepe Winder installed on No1 Shaft

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1903

Second Mine Ventilation Fan installed as a Standbye for the main Fan

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1905

510 men employed. Production 290,600 tons 

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1912

Mining in the East area of the mine ceases and the mining of the West area commences

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1918

Small generating plant installed. Further increase in generating plant capacity installed in 1927-34 period. Electric power being supplied to the Helensburgh township & Waterfall Sanatorium Facility

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1921

The Metropolitan Coal Company (MCC) purchased by Huddart Parker Ltd & becomes a subsidiary of that Company.

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1940

A Joy 8BU coal loader was installed along with a Coal cutting machine. First step in adopting Mechanised mining

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1950

No1 Shaft Winder drive converted from Steam power to the Ward Leonard electric drive system 

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1951

Contract mining ceases

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1953

Joy 42D Battery powered Shuttle Cars and Joy Coal loaders in service.

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1956

Inclined Drift, Surface to Seam completed. Conveyor Belt, rail track system & Direct Rope Drift Haulage installed to replace the No1 Shaft Winder Coal  and Men & Materials Haulage System. 

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1959(a)

Joy Continuous Miner installed. Mining by this machine confined to the extraction of pillars 

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1959(b)

A Coal Preparation Plant erected

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1961

The Boral Company takes over the mine along with all of Huddart Parker’s Colliery and Shipping interests 

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1965

AI&S purchase the mine from Boral Company. Major rework/improvements to the mine surface and underground facilities etc.

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1967

No 3 Shaft sunk in the south west of the mine property, and a new Mine Ventilation Fan installed.

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1968

Coal being railed to BHP Newcastle Steel Works for use as a coke making product.

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1987

Mine purchased from AI&S by Corporate Development Ltd. (CD Ltd)

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1988

Mine purchased from CD Ltd. by Savage River Resources.

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1989

Denhurst purchase the mine from Savage River Resources

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1993

Mine workforce reduced from 245 to 145 as a result of the reduced profitability of the mine

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1995

Longwall mining system plant installed by Denhurst.

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1996

Mine under administration, placed on a Care & Maintenance and workforce reduced from 137 to 24

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1997

Coalrock Company commences mining, followed by Allied Meridian Company. Mine operating on a reduced scale.

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1998/1999

Mine closed,3 men employed. Mine on Care & Maintenance

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1999

Mine purchased by Helensburgh Coal, a Sada Company  

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2002/2004

South Coast P/L Company purchases the mine

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2004/06

Mine purchased by Excel Coal. Mine production approximately 1.3 million tonnes/annum.  

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2006

Mine purchased by Peabody Energy the current owner operator of the mine in 2016

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