This website as the name implies is dedicated to the mining and metallurgical history of the Illawarra – a term whose explicit meaning tends to vary depending on the purpose for which the definition is made.  Broadly however it implies the area bounded by the southern boundary of Sydney, the Illawarra Escarpment on the one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other, and the Shoalhaven district to the south.  It would be remiss however, given the flexibility of definition, to exclude from here mining operations which under some definitions are not in the Illawarra, but which have a very close similarity and history to those other operations described on this site.  In people terms also, those supporting the industries were able to move quite freely among the various operations in the area.

With that in mind, the section which follows describes mining operations at two areas adjacent to the ‘literal’ Illawarra.  Those two locations are the mining operations at Tahmoor, and the (now defunct) operations in the Burragorang Valley.  Operations at Tahmoor are ongoing and date from 1979; operations in the Burragorang Valley ceased in 2000.  Much of the Valley was inundated with the commissioning of the Warragamba Dam, a major element of the water supply for Sydney, in 1958.

Burragorang Valley, Tahmoor and the Illawarra Coast
Map by Google

The extraction of coal from the Burragorang Valley, an area of great natural beauty, commenced in 1923 and continued for some 70 years.  Nine coal mines operated over the time (as well as a short-lived shale mine), overcoming in some cases challenging difficulties in the transport of product coal over difficult terrain.  The story of the Burragorang Valley mines here is taken from Chapter 3 of A History of the Prospecting and Development of Coal Mining in the Illawarra, Southern Highlands and Burragorang Valley published by the Illawarra branch of the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy.  (The full book is available here).

The Burragorang Valley Mines

Nattai BulliCommenced 1930Closed 1992
Tonalli Oil ShaleSmall scale 1941Abandoned 1946
Wollondilly # 1Opened as Oakleigh 1930 (later Old Wollondilly)Closed 1980
Wollondilly Extended (later Nattai North)Opened 1930 as Metropolitan Cement CollieryClosed 1970, reopened 1974 as Nattai North.  Closed 1988
Oakdale (Originally Oakdale State mine)Opened 1956Closed 1999
Valley No 1Commenced 1957Closed 1974
Valley No 2Opened 1960 closed 1960. Reopened 1965Closed 1982
Valley No 3Opened 1971Closed 1984
Brimstone No 1Work commenced 1968, opened 1973Closed 2000 – last to close in Valley
Brimstone No 2Production 1972Closed 1982

The Tahmoor mine lies between the Burragorang Valley and the Illawarra coalfield.  Operations there commenced in 1975, and continue at this date, producing around 1.6Mt/a  of largely coking coal from the same Bulli Seam as that mined in the Illawarra.  In 2021, the company submitted an application to support their Extraction Plan for additional longwall extraction.   Tahmoor’s operations are described here – also taken from the publication noted above and updated to date of publication (2023)

Tahmoor Mine
(Image courtesy SIMEC)