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 their 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.

Corrimal Balgownie Colliery Miners, 1902
From the collection of Ron Cairns

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 storage 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.

Coal Extraction Methods

Production from the mine came from bord and pillar panels and the later extraction of these panels using the Wongawilli system of pillar extraction.

As a means of improving productivity, it was considered desirable that future production from underground coal mining should change and be dominated by the longwall retreat system of mining. However, the varied success of the longwall retreat systems installed in the company’s and other collieries on the south coast in the late 1960s and early 1970s was a cause for concern.

As a result, it was decided to trial shortwall mining at Corrimal Colliery. The shortwall system offered advantages that included a smaller capital funding outlay when compared to a longwall package, as a result of being able to employ existing continuous miners and shuttle cars.

The shortwall equipment was installed in 1971 with a face width of 55 metres and a panel length of 800 metres. It soon became evident that the roof support chocks were unsuitable and a second set of equipment of improved design was installed in 1975. Although this new equipment did provide improvements, the shortwall system was simply not suited to the roof and floor conditions created by this system in mining the Bulli seam at this colliery.

The shortwall system of mining was completely abandoned at Corrimal Colliery in 1980 and in 1982 the longwall system of mining commenced for the first time in the Ten South West panel.

Surface Area circa. 1971

Heritage Display at Corrimal Park

In 1981 the mine ventilation fan installed at the No.2 Shaft was replaced with a Davidson Centrifugal fan. The original shaft personnel winder at No.2 shaft was removed for the fan installation. The major components of the winder were removed and are now mounted in an open space on the corner of Railway and Underwood Streets at Corrimal Park as a reminder of the Corrimal Colliery’s long association with that town.

Mine Closure

During the 1980/81 period, a review of the AI&S Collieries was undertaken and this led to the decision to close some mines. In the case of the Corrimal Colliery, the decision was to merge the colliery with the neighbouring Cordeaux Colliery which had opened in 1979.

The first holing of workings between the two mines took place in November 1985, and in December of that same year the Corrimal Colliery was officially declared closed.

Tourist Mine Proposal

In 1986, plans were prepared for the establishment of a Tourist Mine at the Corrimal pit top. These plans included the refurbishment of an underground area adjacent to the mine surface and the driving of a heading (tunnel) in solid coal off the redundant transport roadway a short distance in from the surface. This driveage was abandoned after a short distance had been driven due to poor roof conditions resulting from weathering of the roof material and the minimal surface cover over the seam at that location. These problems led to the abandonment of the tourist mine proposal.

In 1990 the mine portals at the pit top mine site were effectively sealed and the site cleared of all buildings. The area surrounding the original pit top is now in private ownership.

No.1 Shaft Headframe

In 1991 the No.1 Shaft headframe was identified as being the only remaining timber structure of its type in the southern coalfields and therefore of heritage value. A major restoration of the wooden headframe to its original condition along with the sealing of the shaft was carried out by Illawarra Coal, a BHPBilliton subsidiary, at a cost $100,000. The headframe remains standing at the time of publication of this book.

Surface Area circa. 1971


Timeline of Events Corrimal Colliery

Balgownie Estate of 1047 Acres (434ha) property of William Speer Esq. MLA advertised for Auction. Notice refers to a Trial mine having been opened on the property and coal found to be equal to that of other mines in the Illawarra. Auction, held 30th September1870 — Richardson Wrench Pitt St Sydney.
Balgownie Estate purchased by James Osborne (I.M. 18/7/1873)
Thomas Bertram provides a sample of the coal taken from 500acres (200ha) of land secured by the Brokers Nose Coal Company (BNCC) to the NSW Mines Department.
Bertram advises the Mines Department he has commenced work on the opening the Brokers Nose Colliery (BNC) on behalf of the Brokers Nose Coal Company (BNCC). This work included construction of a bricked Chimney Furnace ventilation shaft,160 metres of driveage into the Bulli Seam and the employment of four men.
The mined coal being lowered down an incline by a main and tail rope haulage to a Screening Plant erected at the base of the incline and hauled by horse/bullock and dray to customers
Development of the mine proceeding with some urgency following advice from State Rail Authority that access to rail would soon be available at Corrimal.
A battery of seven beehive Coke Ovens was erected by Thomas Bertram on land owned by the BNCC adjacent to the State Rail line at Corrimal. The small coal required for the Cokeworks delivered from the mine Screening Plant in narrow gauge coal skips hauled overland from the Screens by horse/ main and tail rope haulage system.
The State Rail line opened between Clifton and Wollongong on 21st June
Mining suspended at the BNC. The BNCC in Liquidation October 1887. The above state of affairs resulted in part, from State Rail being unable to meet the completion dates advised to the BNCC for rail access at Corrimal and access to the facilities at Wollongong Harbour.
The Southern Coal Company (SCC) commences work on the opening of a mine in the Bulli Seam on the south eastern slopes of Mt Kembla, and the construction of an incline endless rope haulage system, Screening Plant, wide gauge rail line from the mine and a Jetty at Red Point (Port Kembla).
The Australian Coke Making Company (ACMC) a Company assosciated with the (SCC) erects a Coke works at Unanderra
The Southern Coal Company (SCC) abandons its attempt to open a mine at Mount Kembla, and takes up a lease of the Brokers Nose Colliery and commences a major upgrade of the abandoned BNCC, transferring plant and manpower resources from the Mount Kembla site. Standard gauge rail line laid on the mine site to access the South Coast Rail line, and SCC steam locomotives and rail wagons employed to haul coal from the Screens to the Corrimal siding and on to the SCC Jetty at Red Point.
Total of 80 men employed at the mine and daily production increased from 200 to 1000 tons per day.
The Maritime Strike commences. All mines in the Southern and Northern districts on strike in support of the Maritime workers
Sixty (60) non-union men employed to work the mine, as a result of the strike
The Coke making plant erected at Corrimal by Thomas Bertram in 1886 shut down
The Mine property is purchased by G.S. Youll & Company Ltd. This purchase includes 700 acres (208ha) of additional land behind the escarpment and conditions of ownership.
This change in ownership includes the management of the mine and sale of all coal being vested in G.S. Youll and Co. Ltd.
The mines property leased by the SCC is 8750 acres (3065Ha)
A steam powered mechanically driven Walker design mine ventilation fan installed to replace the Furnace Mine Ventilation system at the Brokers Nose mine..
The Southern Coal Company changes its name to the Corrimal-Balgownie Collieries Ltd. and the name of the mine to the Corrimal -Balgownie Colliery.
The ACMC Cokeworks at Unanderra (an assosciated SCC venture) closed.
The mine workings to the south of the original mine entries below the Brokers Nose headland intersect a 94ft(29m) upthrow fault.
New entries to mine established approximately 1.5km to the south of the original Brokers Nose entries. Reasonable to assume that the site chosen for this new mine entry is the site of the Trial Mine entries include in the Notice of Auction of the Balgownie Estate in 1870. (See 1870 Timeline entry)
Two steam powered Endless Rope Haulages installed at the new mine entries. Full coal skips delivered to the surface and hauled by steam locomotive around the escarpment to the Brokers Nose mine entry. Skips attached to the incline haulage for delivery to the Screening Plant below. Empty skips hauled back to the mine entries. 350 men employed at the mine.
The sinking of the No1 mine ventilation Shaft commenced west of the escarpment.
Sinking of the No1 shaft completed and a steam powered shaft winder installed complete with facilities for winding men and minor materials to and from the surface. A large volume of water flowing from the strata intersected in the shaft sinking, controlled by installing a drainage pipe line from the shaft bottom through the mine to discharge the water at the mine surface.
Coke Ovens Plant erected by the Company adjacent to Corrimal Railway Station. This plant included a power generation plant operating on waste gases to supply power to the Coke works plant and the Colliery.
A Sirocco Mine Ventilation fan powered by a 150hp(112kW) electric motor installed on the No1 Shaft.
An overland narrow gauge rail line constructed from the No 1 Shaft to the site chosen to sink a No2 Shaft to enable plant and equipment to be delivered to the site.
Evidence of an inclined rail line from the Corrimal mine surface area up to the top of the escarpment. Assumed to have been used for delivering heavy plant up over the escarpment.
Sinking of the No2 Shaft completed and the shaft arranged to serve as a downcast ventilation airway.
An electrically driven Coal Cutting machine and hand held face boring machines installed in the mine as first steps in adopting the mechanised system of mining.
A 33kV Substation erected by the Public Works Department (PWD) adjacent to the mine to provide an increased power supply capacity to the mine. Power supply from the Coke Works retained as a standby supply.
A 96inch diameter (2.43m) Hi Flow axial flow Mine Ventilation Fan powered by a 250hp (186kW) motor installed on the No2 shaft and the role of the No1 Shaft changed to a downcast shaft.
An incline friction hoist haulage system installed at the mine comprised of 2x 15-ton capacity cars operating in a one up one down fashion. A twin set of wide gauge rail tracks laid to deliver coal from the pit top Screening plant to the recently erected Coal Preparation Plant.
Mine and Coke Works purchased by AI&S Pty Ltd. Major changes included an above seam coal storage bin sited on the border of the Corrimal and Kemira Collieries and the diversion of all coal mined in Corrimal into this bin and on to the Kemira Trunk conveyor system and Kemira Coal Handling plant.
The surface Incline haulage, Screening and Coal Preparation plants, were demolished. Modern surface workshops and battery locomotive service buildings were erected at the pit top and the AI&S Collieries 33kV power supply system connected to the mine site. The existing Travelling roadway from surface to underground increased in height and width, the narrow gauge rail track removed and replaced by (1.02m) width rail track. This change enabled the use of battery locomotives and on track men and materials carrying plant, and the transport of mining equipment from and to the surface.
The diversion of Corrimal coal to the Kemira Trunk conveyor system commences
The sinking of the Corrimal No3 shaft commenced
The sinking of No3 Shaft completed.
The Shortwall system of mining commenced in the mine. Not successful.
A fully automatic 600 tons per hour Bulk Skip Hoist system installed and commissioned at the No3 shaft, along with an enclosed surface conveyor and storage bins. The diversion of Corrimal coal to Kemira ceases.
The longwall system of mining commenced in the mine. Shortwall system abandoned.
No2 Shaft Mine Ventilation Fan replaced with an ex Appin Colliery Mine Fan powered by 2 x 500hp (2×375 kW) drive motors.
Roof Bolt support chosen for all future mine roadway developments.
Record production levels achieved by the longwall system of mining.
An underground roadway in the Cordeaux colliery linked to an adjacent roadway in the Corrimal colliery.
The Corrimal Colliery closes after 100 years of operation
Mining in the vicinity of the Corrimal mine surface entries commenced on the proposed development of a Tourist Mine. Project abandoned after a short time as a result of poor roof conditions in the area planned for the mine.
The No1 and No2 Shafts and Mine entries to the Corrimal Colliery capped/sealed and surface buildings at the mine pit top site demolished. Surface Mine site area and surrounds now in private ownership.
Corrimal No3 shaft converted to an upcast shaft for the Cordeaux Colliery mine ventilation system with a mine fan ex Kemira Colliery installed.