Mt Kembla Colliery Memorial

(From the collections of the Wollongong City Library and the
Illawarra Historical Society)

The Register of the National Estate Database (1998) described Mount Kembla as "... isolated and confined by steep topography" and noted that "a unique character and identity has developed." Folded into the Illawarra escarpment, with its adjacent largely bushed State Recreation Area, the village and surrounding area has retained much of the character which led a Sydney Evening News reporter in 1870 to talk of scenery which was "..a mixture of bold coast, striking bluff and mountain top...teeming with luxuriant vegetation that the various plants seem to fight for every square foot of space...". It was that luxuriant vegetation which led to cedar getters commencing to fell timber in 1810.


Mount Kembla ca 1860

(From the collections of the Wollongong City Library and the
Illawarra Historical Society)

Sadly the most enduring memories of Mount Kembla are associated with Australia's largest industrial disaster, the coal mining disaster of 31 July 1902, in which 96 men and boys died - an event regularly commemorated to the present day. But large scale coal mining was not the first industry in Mt Kembla - indeed the first coal mining was an outcome of the need for fuel for a kerosene works based on local shale deposits in 1865. Little remains of the kerosene operations - but the influence of mining has remained strong.

Go to Mount Kembla Pioneer Kerosene Works
Go to Mount Kembla Mine

 


TIMELINE

A Timeline - Mt Kembla Pioneer Kerosene Works and Mine

 

1849

Rev Clarke finds oil shale at Mt Kembla

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1865a

Chemist Benjamin Fawcett claims material he found in 1862 at Mt Kembla contains kerosene.

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1865b

Subscriptions sought to fund testing of Mt Kembla kerosene potential - not successful

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1865c

Firm (Graham & Mulholland) fund sample testing by Government Analyst - "50 gallons per ton"

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1865d

Shale retorting plant installed, J Hamill manager of the “American Creek Pioneer Works.’’

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1865e

First Mt Kembla kerosene product brought to Wollongong

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1870

E Graham son of J Graham (of Graham & Mulholland) plant manager

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1872

Prospectus issued for new shale oil company (£50,000) - unsuccessful

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1874a

J Graham sells interest to E Vickery and W Burall - to form new company

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1874b

Competition from lower priced Hartley Valley NSW supply selling in Illawarra.

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1875

Pioneer ceases production

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1876a

Oil price recovers, Pioneer re-commences production but struggles financially

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1876b

W Burall seeks funds to develop mineral resource - unsuccessful locally, travelled to London. Raised £100,000 capital

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1877 Aug

Fire at kerosene plant

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1877 Aug

Fire at kerosene plant.

 

1878a

Kerosene plant closes

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1878b

Mt Kembla Coal & Oil Co (MKCOC)formed to take over property of Kerosene Company and mine for coal

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1881

MKCOC granted approval for the construction of rail lines to Wollongong Harbour and Red Point (Port Kembla). Construction of a Rail line to Wollongong did not proceed.

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1882

Sixty men at work establishing the Mount Kembla coal mine site.

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1883

Rail from Mt Kembla mine to jetty at Red Point completed

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1883 Feb

Official opening of the Mt Kembla mine, included a ceremonial dinner underground.

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1883

110 men working at mine, 56 underground, mine ventilation furnace and chimney erected..

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1883 Mar

First shipment of coal from the Mt Kembla Mine despatched from Red Point Jetty (Port Kembla).

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1884-1894

Mine employs 250 men on average, producing 20,000 tons/yr. Much industrial strife in reaching agreement on rates of pay for contract miners.

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1887a

A second mine ventilation Chimney and Furnace in service 200 Metres North of the main mine entry

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1887b

Work commenced on the sinking of the No1 surface to seam shaft west of the escarpment.

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1892

Sinking of the No1 shaft completed and in service as a furnace ventilation shaft

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1896

Mt Kembla mine erects plant to wash the small coal product at its  the jetty

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1899

Mt Lyell Mining & Smelting Company Queenstown Tasmania erects a coke making plant at Red Point using Mt Kembla coal.

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1902

Underground explosion at the mine led to loss of 96 lives - still the greatest loss of life in any industrial accident in Australia

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1903

Electricity generating plant installed to provide power for surface and underground plant.

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1913

Mt Kembla Collieries formed to buy our MKCOC assets for £700,000.

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1914

Five electric coal cutting machines installed and giving good results..

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1918

All coal mined now being cut by machine.

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1920

Committee of Enquiry agrees to the removal of electric coal cutting machines. Fear of initiating a gas explosion. New man Transport road entry nearing completion.

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1923

Sinking of the No2 Ventilation shaft adjacent to the Cordeaux Reservoir has commenced.

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1924

The sinking of the No2 Shaft has been completed.

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1925

Mt Lyell coke making plant closed

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1926

A mechanical Ventilation Fan has been installed on No2 Shaft

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1935

New screening plant erected at the mine replaces the original plant..

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1946

Mt Kembla Collieries Ltd. dissolved and assets acquired by Australian iron & Steel (AIS). Nebo Mine development commenced above the site of the abandoned Pioneer Works.

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1950-1956

Major upgrade to the mine incline coal handling system and erection of a rail loading coal bin.

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1950-1956

Steam Locomotives, rail wagons and rail facilities at Cordeaux Rd Central Kembla removed from service. New Pit Pony Stables erected at the mine

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1968

Mine ventilation fan installed on No1 Shaft. Attempt made to introduce mechanised mining using rubber-tyred equipment proved unsuccessful..

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1970

Mine closed ending 87 years of continuous operation.

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