In June 1920, an application was made to the Warden’s Court seeking an authority to enter Portion 57 Parish of Wongawilli, being land in the care of the trustees of Henry Osborne’s estate in the Avondale area west of Dapto.  Later in that year a further application was made seeking the suspension of labour conditions on leases assigned to land located adjacent to Portion 57.  It would appear from correspondence that followed this application to the Wardens Court, that it was the applicant’s intention to amalgamate Portion 57 and the above leases, into one lease. 

In September 1920 there was a further application made to the Warden’s Court for the suspension of labour conditions.  Despite each of the above applications to the Warden’s Court, no record has been found of any mining having taken taking place on the site, and it is assumed the planned opening of a mine on the site, was abandoned.[1]

In July 1946, the Waugh brothers William (Bill), Phillip and Frank (all residents of Mt Kembla) commenced their mining of the Tongarra seam at Avondale, and named the mine the Huntley Colliery, after the Waugh family’s connections with the town of Huntly, located on the North Island, of New Zealand.  (Interestingly, Huntly NZ is the site of the last significant coal-based generation capacity in NZ.)  The colliery holding plan was lodged with the Mines Department on the 15th August 1946, by the Waugh brothers, and embraced Lots 26 and 27 of Portions 57 and 273 in the Parishes of Calderwood and Kembla  The Waugh brothers were based at Mt Kembla, and the proprietors of a road trucking business.  The coal produced from the Huntley Colliery was sold and delivered by road to domestic and light industry customers, in the Illawarra area.  The Colliery output was mined by contract miners producing about 100 tons per day.

In October 1947, the NSW Department of Public Works (NSWDPW) sought the assistance of the Joint Coal Board (JCB), in their sourcing of a supply of coal for the Tallawarra Power Station, to be established by the NSW State Government on the western foreshore, of Lake Illawarra.  The coal requirements by the power station, were estimated to rise from an initial 65,000 tons in the year 1952 to 525,000 tons, in 1959.

The JCB advised that coal from the Tongarra seam should be used by the power station to avoid the consumption of the coking coal mined in the area, and needed to support the steel industry.  The quantity of coal required by the power station was considered by the JCB to be beyond the capacity of the currently existing collieries in the area.  The JCB advised that there were however areas west of the power station site that the JCB had prospected, and which contained coal reserves to meet the planned needs of the power station for fifty years.  The Board further advised that the most convenient place to access those reserves was the Waugh brothers’ Huntley Colliery.[2]

In anticipation of the construction of the Tallawarra Power Station, the JCB commenced negotiations with the Waugh brothers, to purchase the mine.  The JCB was at the same time securing coal leases west of the Huntley mine, and had confirmed that the most convenient place of entry for the mine was the mine operated by the Waugh brothers. 

The plans developed by the JCB for the mine were based on an expected production of 400 tons per day in 1951, rising to 2,600 tons per day by 1959.

The JCB Annual Report for 1950-51 outlined proposals for the development of the Huntley Colliery to serve the needs of Tallawarra Power Station, that was by then under construction, whilst the funding required from the Commonwealth Government to develop the mine had not been granted.  The Commonwealth Government believed that as the colliery was to serve as a state government owned facility, the ownership and funding of the mine’s development should be in the hands of the state, and not the JCB.  Following discussions between the then Prime Minister and the Premier of NSW, the State Government on the recommendations of the JCB agreed to provide the funds needed to purchase and develop the mine, with a proviso that both the state and federal governments should at some later date discuss the long-term ownership of the mine.

On 27th July 1951 the shares in the Huntley Colliery were purchased from the Waugh brothers by the JCB and the Huntley Colliery Pty Ltd. (HCPL) was established.  The company directorate included a representative of the Electricity Commission of NSW (ECNSW) and the immediate planning for the development of a fully mechanised mine commenced.  The date set by the ECNSW for the supply of coal to the power station was set as September/October 1951, later amended to June 1952. 

Messrs. G.M. Hindmarsh Superintendent of Australian Iron & Steel Collieries and S. McKensey, Superintendent of Hebburn Ltd. Company were engaged as consultants and rendered their services on a voluntary basis to complete the preliminary planning of the colliery.  While the mine continued to operate as a small mine, the major developments required to develop a fully mechanised mine were being progressed.  The agreements between the Huntley Colliery P/L and the ECNSW provided that the latter would within two years take delivery of the coal at the mine, and alternative proposals for an aerial ropeway or a conveyor belt system from the mine to the power station were being investigated for this purpose.[3]

The JCB Annual Report for 1952 –3 included details of the continued development of the mine, with the average daily production being 890 tons per day; and the future developments of the mine were being developed in keeping with the coal requirements of the power station.  Negotiations on a long-term agreement between the HCPL and the ECNSW were then expected to be finalised in a short time.  Funds were loaned to the colliery by the JCB in the form of redeemable debentures, and the company made a modest profit for the year.[4]

The mine was progressively developed to become a completely mechanised mining operation, and mined coal from both the Tongarra and Wongawilli seams, using two cutter loader units in the former, and two continuous miners in the latter.[5]  In 1953-54 the pit top area was developed and construction commenced on an outdoor storage area, temporary and permanent buildings, and concrete foundations for workshop and administration buildings.  The coal from the mine was delivered by road to the power station and to other customers with some improvements made to the road up to the mine, in cooperation with the Wollongong City Council.

Joy Manufacturing Coal Loader
(RAC Collection)

(This coal loader was originally installed at the colliery. Following the closure of the mine the loader was mounted in an area, adjacent to the former site of the colliery coal preparation plant.)

The 1953 –54 JCB Annual Report noted that the mine was supplying coal for the first generating unit to commence operating in September 1954, withthe surplus coal produced at the mine sold to private consumers. The above report also included a review of the history of the mine, and the Tallawarra  Power Station.  The JCB Annual Report for1954-55 noted that the colliery was sold to the ECNSW, on the 15th June 1955.[6]  More generating units were progressively added to the station, with the No 6 unit commissioned in 1961, raising the total generating capacity of the Power Station to 320 megawatts.

Tallawarra Power Station [7]

Access to the mine workings were made through the Tongarra seam with an inclined drift, providing access to the Wongawilli seam, and in 1963 a central conveyor belt haulage system was commissioned.  Coal produced in the Wongawilli seam was discharged into an interseam storage bin along with coal produced in the Tongarra seam.  The coal was then loaded on to a conveyor belt system in the Tongarra seam for delivery to the surface and into a Bradford breaker.  Stone and tramp material was removed in the breaker and the coal moved to a crusher, and then to a decline conveyor belt for delivery in to an over-roadway loading bin for delivery by road to customers.  The Wongawilli seam workings were ventilated by a mine ventilation fan installed on a vertical shaft sunk behind the escarpment.  The Tongarra seam workings were ventilated by a ventilation fan installed at the outcrop of that seam at the pit top surface area.

In1966 the mine achieved an annual production of 1.038 million tons, and became the first colliery in Australia to achieve an annual production of one million tons.  In 1967 a coal preparation plant was installed on land below the mine site to process and produce a coking coal, for both the domestic and export markets.

In the late 1970s/early 1980s, the company looked for new areas to extend the mine’s operations and obtained access to leases to the west and south of their company’s original properties.  These new leases surrounded the neighboring Avondale Colliery that had ceased production in 1982, and the leases originally held by that colliery were acquired in 1987 by the Huntley Colliery.  The plans developed to install a longwall mining unit in these lease areas did not eventuate.  This was mainly due to the prevalence of dykes and faults in these areas imposing restrictions that limited the adoption of this system of mining. 

While the principal customer for the mine’s production remained the Tallawarra Power Station, a downturn in the demand for electric power from that station in 1983 had a profound effect on the economic viability of the Huntley Colliery.  Following the permanent shut down of the Tallawarra Power Station the colliery closed, in January 1993.

Mine Decline Conveyor, Coal Preparation Plant
 and Storage Bins

(Huntley Colliery Brochure)

Following the closing of the mine plans were developed for the surface area of the mine site east of the Escarpment that include a golf course, housing and eco-tourism.  Facilities have been reported in the local press but are yet to become a reality.   There are no known plans to reopen the Huntley mine.

RAC Rev 10 – 19/12/2008 RAC 30122020AC

[1] Mining Warden Court Records – 1920

[2] Joint Coal Board Annual Report -1949-50

[3] Joint Coal Board Annual Report -1950-51

[4] Joint Coal Board Annual Report – 1952-53

[5] Joint Coal Board Annual Report – 1954 -54

[6] Joint Coal Board Annual Report – 1954-55

[7] “Success story at Tallawarra” – June 1973 The Electricity Commission of  NSW – “Network” Publication