There are remnants of the jetty to be seen on the rocky shelf to the left of the boat ramp.  In construction, steel dowel pins, 3 inches diameter were inserted into holes drilled into the rocky shelf.  Wooden piles with holes drilled into their bases were then positioned onto these to form the structure of the jetty.  These dowels can best be seen at low tide.  Shifting sands may cover some of them at times.  The stern mooring ring is also visible in the area where the steel pins are protruding from the rocky shelf.

In 1892 the Jetty Mine was acquired by Ebenezer Vickery with plans to sink a shaft at the   nearby Stoney Creek adjacent to the recently completed South Coast Rail line.  With the demand for coal continuing to decline due to the 1895/1896 depression, the sinking of this shaft was deferred.  In 1902 the ownership of the mine was transferred to E. Vickery and Sons Limited and in 1909 to the Coal Cliff Collieries Limited Company. These changes were merely legal issues with the venture remaining at all times, firmly in the hands of the Vickery family.

Coal Cliff Collieries Limited

The Coal Cliff Collieries Limited Company, formed in 1909, took over the leases and assets of the original Coal Cliff Company with the aim of developing a mine that was both efficient and profitable.  While the shaft proposed earlier was being sunk and the pit top site was being developed, the Jetty Mine remained in operation and the underground workings of the new (Coalcliff) and old (Jetty) mine workings were linked together under ground.

The surface plant for the new mine was very modern and the latest technologies were adopted.  In October 1910 the mine shaft and winding equipment was commissioned and in 1916 a direct current (DC) power station building was erected and generating plant installed to provide surface and underground lighting and a source of electric power for mining equipment installed underground.  Extensive rail sidings were established with half of the coal mined being allocated to satisfy a contract with the NSW Railways.

In 1912 the jetty ceased to be used as a means of shipping coal having been replaced by access to the State railway line adjacent to the mine site.  The entries to the Jetty mine were sealed with concrete in 1992, and remnants of the mine site are visible beneath the Seacliff Bridge.

 

In 1913 the Illawarra Coke Company Limited commenced construction on a battery of 50 very modern beehive coke ovens on the western side of the State Rail line. Although the Illawarra Coke Company Limited and the Coal Cliff Collieries were two separate companies, the colliery provided the coal, electric power and fresh water for the coke works plant. The coke works was under the control of Mr. H.O. Hyde with the first coke produced from the plant in December 1914.

The Coal Cliff mine expanded rapidly and in 1919, with 337 men employed underground, the capacity of the shaft winding plant, to accommodate the handling of both men, materials and coal mined was proving to be a major problem. To overcome this problem, in 1920 a cross measures drift was  driven from the surface east of the winding shaft to the coal seam to provide an access for both men and materials and create an additional mine ventilation intake airway.

During 1926/27 major alterations were made to the mines power supply system installed in 1916, by replacing the direct current power supply with a 50 cycle alternating current system and the erection of a new power house building.

In April 1928 Vickery & Sons engaged consultant D.A.W. Robertson who carried out an audit of the company’s operation and recommended major changes to improve the productivity of the mine and the expenditure of a large capital expenditure on plant and equipment.

Industrial unrest during the period 1929 to 1931 and the Great Depression delayed the implementation of Robertson’s recommendations; however in 1935 a new coal screening plant was erected on the surface and in 1938 new pit top buildings and dust collecting   plant was installed. Shortages of materials, capital funds and industrial unrest during the World War 2 created delays in fully implementing the recommended changes. Progress in introducing mechanised mining was slow due to the militant attitude of the mining unions on one hand, and reluctance by the mine owners on the other to commit large amounts of capital funds whilst these attitudes existed in the Miners Unions.

In March 1944 the Coalcliff mine was placed under the control of the Commonwealth Government Coal Commission (CCC).The background to this action was that in March 1944 the Commission was given, authority under powers provided by the Coal Production (War Time) Act No1 to take control of any mine in the interests of defence. The reasons for the CCC choosing the Coalcliff Colliery as opposed to other mines on the coast resulted from a dispute at Coalcliff that had spread to other mines causing wide spread stoppages and loss of coal production. The issue involved was the pillar extraction methods employed by the Coalcliff mine and the effect these methods were having on the health of the miners being exposed to excessive quantities of airborne coal dust created by this mines method of pillar extraction. This issue along with others affecting the whole of the mining industry at that point in time whilst addressed were not completely solved by the establishment of the CCC.

The CCC ceased its control of the Coalcliff mine in March 1947.

Following the termination of the above control of the mine some mining equipment suited to the adoption of a mechanised mining system was installed, with limited success in the 1948 to 1951 period. This equipment included duckbill type coal loaders, coal cutters and rigid flight conveyor assemblies and was withdraw after a short period as a result of unsatisfactory production results.

In 1954 Kembla Coal & Coke Pty Ltd. purchased the Coal Cliff mine and the adjacent Illawarra Coke Company Ltd. and commenced a £5,000,000 major upgrade of the mine.

Extensive modifications were made in upgrading both the underground and surface facilities to provide the support services and plant required for the successful introduction of modern mechanised mining systems.

The upgrade of the mine included a new mine fan installed on a 1500 feet (460ms) deep upcast shaft sunk in the Darkes Forest area, a new inclined cross measures drift providing both rail access from the mine surface to underground and the installation of a single flight cable belt drift conveyor 10,500 (3200 ms) feet in length and designed to deliver coal to a 400 tons per hour capacity Coal Preparation Plant.

 

Coalcliff Mine Surface Facilities, and Illawarra Coke Works

A 2000 ton capacity raw coal storage bin and a washed coal product storage bins of 1600 tons capacity were installed on the surface. The direct rope mine haulage system and wide gauge rail track installed in the drift was designed to handle men and materials and heavy lift machinery movements to and from underground.

During the 1970’s a program to further increase production began and included the sinking of three additional upcast shafts with mine fans installed and the construction of several large underground storage bins to compliment the operations of an extensive mine wide underground trunk conveyor belt system.

In the 1960’s the Coalcliff mine became the largest underground coalmine in Australia, employing 988 men and achieving an annual production in excess of 1.7 million tonnes.

In 1971 a completely new mine was created at Darkes Forest to mine the western reserves of the Coalcliff mine leases. An access shaft was sunk, Administration and Bathhouse buildings were erected and fully automatic personnel carrying lift and a mine ventilation fan installed on the shaft.

Darkes Forest Mine Surface Facilities, 1972

The Darkes Forest mine operated as a completely separate entity, dependent however, on the Coalcliff surface facilities and that mine’s underground and surface infrastructure for the supply and delivery plant and materials to and from underground. All coal produced by the mine was delivered by the Darkes Forest/Coalcliff underground panel/trunk conveyor systems to the Coalcliff Coal Preparation Plant at Coalcliff.

Both the Coalcliff and Darkes Forest mines closed in 1992, ending, in the case of the Coalcliff mine, 114 years of operation.

The mine site buildings and facilities were demolished with the exception of the brick Power House building.

The Coalcliff mine site mine site has been rehabilitated, the brick Powerhouse building remains standing, and the mine seam entries facing the sea at the old Jetty mine site have been sealed and are now overshadowed by the Seacliff Bridge.

GPS Information

Coalcliff Mine Site
E 6208785 N 313039 HSL 88.0 metres
Jetty Mine Site
E 6208074 N313677 HSL 5.0 metres
Darkes Forest Site
E6210036 N308072 HSL 366.0 metres

The Authors wish to acknowledge that the sources of information researched to present this information included reference to the publication ‘’Coalcliff Collieries 100 years of Mining 1878-1978’’- Historical Research by Mr. Brian Rogers and Promotional Publications prepared by the Kembla Coal & Coke Company Ltd.