Prospecting of the area that later became the site of the Wongawilli Colliery commenced in 1870 when John Biggar drove tunnels into the Bulli and Wongawilli Seams. John Biggar died in 1890 and further prospecting of the site ceased. In 1907 Andrew Lang and his partners continued their prospecting in the area and in 1908 opened the site as the Wongawilli Colliery. This was a small intermittent mining operation employing a small number of men.

In 1908 G&C Hoskins Ltd. of Sydney took over the Esbank Iron Works of William Sanford at Lithgow. A Coke making plant comprised of 80 Ovens was erected in 1912 using locally mined coal. The product from this plant was found to be unsuitable. Coke was purchased from the South Coast and transported to Lithgow, attracting a heavy surcharge to the Lithgow operations. After considering other possible options members of the Hoskins family visited the South Coast with the intention of opening a mine in the Bulli Seam. Arriving on the South Coast the Hoskins found that all of the Bulli seam coal lands between Helensburgh and Mount Kembla had already been secured by lease. South of Mount Kembla a large area of land had been leased by a Mr. Lang who was operating a small mine in the No3 Wongawilli Seam on that land. The Hoskins purchased the lease from Lang in 1916 and soon after took up more leases on adjoining lands, and proceeded to open and develop the Wongawilli Colliery to mine the No3 Seam, and erect a Coke Ovens plant.

Incline Haulage Mine Portal 1917 
(Courtesy of  the Mr. G. Oysten Collection)

Site work commenced immediately to develop the mine, erect the supporting infrastructure, commence the erection of a Coke Ovens plant comprised initially of 40 Ovens and provide a railway line access to the site.

In 1917 coal production from the mine commenced, 14 of the planned 40 Coke Ovens were in operation and a small quantity of coke was being railed to the Lithgow plant.

Coke Ovens Plant Extensions Under Construction Circa. 1920

In 1919 Charles Hoskins and family bought the entire interests of G. & C. Hoskins Ltd. and operated under the title of the Hoskins Iron & Steel Company.

As the Wongawilli Seam contained 25% Ash, compared to 11% in the Bulli Seam the coke produced by the Wongawilli Coke Ovens was not suitable for the Lithgow plant and in 1921 the mine was shut down. A Coal Washing plant was erected (the first ever on a mine site) and additional Ovens were added to the plant. The mine resumed operations in 1922 with the Washing Plant reducing the Ash content in the coal to 11% and the Coke Ovens producing a high grade Coke product. In 1925, 52 Coke Ovens were in service and waste heat gas from the Ovens was being used in a Power Plant, installed to support the Mine, the Washery and Cokeworks. Soon after a total of 80 Coke Ovens were in service.

Coke Ovens, Power House & Coal Washing Plant in Background
(Courtesy of the Mr. A. Frazer Collection)

The Coke Ovens plant was closed in 1938 following the commissioning of a By-Products Coking Plant at the AI&S Port Kembla Steelworks.

The Wongawilli plant was reopened in 1941, as a result of the World War 2 demands for an increase in steel production from the AI&S Port Kembla Steelworks. In 1949 the Coke Works plant was closed and demolished, along with the Coal Washery, Workshops and Stores erected nearby.

Coke Ovens, Power House & Part of Mine Workshop Building
(Courtesy of the Mr. A. Frazer Collection)

Coke Ovens & Village, Mine Bathroom & Power House in Foreground
(Courtesy of the Mr. A. Frazer Collection)

In 1947 the Contract system of mining ceased and the mechanised system of mining was progressively installed using on track Coal Cutters, Coal Loaders,10-ton capacity mine cars and Battery Locomotives mining units in the 1 North area of the mine. The mining of the original and long established North West area of the mine using the Contract system was abandoned.

Infrastructure facilities required to support the introduction of mechanised mining were provided at the pit top and included a Workshop, Stores, Battery Locomotive Charging area, a mine timbers storeage and handling.

A new Bathroom/mine report room building was erected circa. 1950 at the base of the mine incline adjacent to the Incline Man Transport Haulage and loading Station.

A high capacity direct rope incline haulage was installed at the pit top to deliver the empty, and haul the  10 ton mine cars to and from the No1 North area of the mine, to be rotary dumped at the surface. The dumped coal was transferred to an automated decline rope haulage system for unloading and delivery by belt conveyor into over rail storeage bins located at the base of the incline for despatch by rail to AI&S Port Kembla.

Continuous miners and shuttle cars replaced the earlier on track mining equipment in the 1950’s along with Conveyor belt haulage from each mining panel to a mine wide Trunk Conveyor System discharging the coal in to above seam underground storage bins for delivery to the surface by belt conveyor. Here the coal passed through a Bradford Breaker to removed stone and tramp material before being transferred on to a decline conveyor installed to both replace and increase the capacity of the earlier incline rope haulage system and be delivered to a rail storage bin.

In 1961 mining commenced in an area of Bulli Seam coal found to be overlying the Wongawilli seam. Mining equipment was purchased to suit the lower floor to roof height dimensions of the seam. Modifications were made to the Wongawilli seam trunk conveyor belt system to enable the coal mined in the Bulli Seam to be discharged into a between seams storage bin and delivered, in sequence, from that bin by the mine trunk conveyor system to a dedicated Bulli Seam over rail storeage bin erected adjacent to the Wongawilli seam storeage bin. Mining of the Bulli Seam ceased in 1991

During and immediately prior to the 1990’s major changes were made in the AI&S group of Collieries. These changes included the introduction of the Longwall system of mining at this colliery, a change of name from Wongawilli to Elouera, the closing of the Nebo and Kemira Collieries and the amalgamation of the mining lease areas of those mines embraced to become part of the Elouera Colliery.

The Elouera colliery was operated for a time as the Delta1 mine by a contractor engaged by Illawarra Coal with the property being later sold by Illawarra Coal to the Gujurat NRE. The mine is currently owned by Wollongong Coal Ltd. and at this point in time (May 2016) is idle and in Care and Maintenance status.

RAC 09052016 – Rev 1 14052016


Reference Timeline Wongawilli Colliery


J. Biggar & others prospecting exposed coal seams in Wongawilli area


J. Biggar dies and further prospecting by family & others ceases 


G.C. Hoskins take over Esbank Iron Works at Lithgow and erect a Coke Ovens Plant using locally mined coal. Coke from plant unsuitable. Coke being purchased from the South Coast and railed to Lithgow at a high cost/ton. 


Lang & Partners open a small mine in Wongawilli Seam


Hoskins Iron & Steel (HI&S) company members visit the South Coast with the intention of opening a mine, only to find that all coal lands from Helensburgh to Mt Kembla are held by lease.


The HI&S company purchases Lang & Partners small mine and its attached leased coal lands. 


HI&S open the Wongawilli mine, commence the erection of 40 Coke Ovens and the building of a rail line to Brownsville to link up with the State Railway. 


Small quantities of Coke being despatched from Wongawilli to the Lithgow Plant. Coke found to be unsuitable for iron & steel making. 


A 308Kw generating plant powered by coke ovens waste heat gas installed. 


Mine and Coke Ovens shut down to enable a Coal Washing Plant to be erected at the mine. (The very first Coal Washery erected on a mine Site) 


Mine and Coke Ovens resume work. Coal Washery reduces Ash in the coal mined from 25% to 11%. Coke suitable for Lithgow Steel Plant. 


Additional Coke Ovens being erected, & a total of 60 Ovens now in service. 


Charles Hoskins purchases land at Port Kembla as the first step in moving the Iron &Steel making plant from Lithgow to Port Kembla 


40 more Coke Ovens erected to make a total of 80 Ovens in the Plant. Hoskins now in possession of a 5000acres (2023ha) mining lease for the colliery.


A Screening and Rail loading Plant added to the Coke Ovens 


25 more Coke Ovens erected. Plant now comprises 105 Ovens 


The HI&S Company is joined by three other Companies to form the Australian Iron & Steel Company Ltd. (AI&S) Wongawilli Colliery and Coke Ovens become part of the AI&S Company Ltd.


Coke being supplied to the AI&S plant at Port Kembla for the start-up of the No1 Blast Furnace.


The South Kembla Colliery at West Dapto is purchased by AI&S and abandoned workings of that mine linked to the Wongawilli Colliery mine workings.


The AI&S Company Ltd is purchased by Broken Hill Propriety Ltd. 


Endless Rope Incline and in mine Haulage system installed (Claimed to be the longest end to end rope haulage system in the world) 


AI&S Collieries 33kv overhead Power line system originating from Port Kembla Steel Works connected to the mine.


Coke Oven Plant closed as a new By-Products Coke Ovens Plant commenced operating at AI&S Port Kembla.


Wongawilli Coke Ovens Plant reopened to support the AIS PK increased production needs in World War 2.


Incline Man Transport haulage installed (Miners walked up and down the incline each day prior to this haulage installation. 


Contract mining replaced by the mechanised mining system on track Coal Cutters, Loaders, Mine Cars & Battery Locomotives installed in the No1 North area. A direct rope haulage system installed at the pit top to service 1North area of the mine.


A Mine Car rotary Dumper station installed at the pit top to dump mine cars hauled to the surface from the 1 North area of the mine.


The existing small carrying capacity Incline Endless Rope Haulage system replaced by a fully automatic, incline haulage friction hoist, lowering and raising 2x 15-ton capacity rail cars on the incline. Coal received at the base of the incline delivered by conveyor belt to an over rail coal storeage bin


Coal mined at the Nebo and Kemira No3 Seam mines being transported by road to the Wongawilli Washing Plant for treatment and delivery by rail to AI&S Port Kembla. 


The Coke Ovens & Coal Washing Plants shut down and demolished, along with the adjacent Workshops, Stores and Administration Buildings erected when the mine opened circa.1917.


The 1North mine workings are holed into abandoned South Kembla mine workings. 


A high capacity Axial Flow Mine Ventilation Fan is installed on the surface at the South Kembla site to increase the mines ventilation capacity and replace the original fan installed at the mine pit top


A Joy Model 4JCM Continuous Miner is installed at the mine


Joy 10SC (dc powered) Cable reel Shuttle Cars installed at the mine  


The installation of Panel and Trunk Conveyor Belts commences


An underground to Surface and a Surface Decline Trunk belt Conveyor system replaces the 1 North Direct Rope and Incline Friction Hoist Haulage Systems


Joy 15SC Shuttle cars (Increased carrying capacity and better suited to mine floor conditions) installed along with increased  cutting and loading capacity Joy 6CM Continuous Miners. 


Mining of an isolated block of the Bulli Seam lying above the Wongawilli  Seam commenced using a low height Continuous Miner and two Joy 18SC model, low height, six-wheel Shuttle Cars.


A Jeffery Manufacturing ‘Heleminer’,950 Volt A.C. Fixed Head, Continuous Miner installed at the mine. This was the first of this model machine supplied to Australia 


The Incline Haulage System installed in 1947 was converted to a Man Transport System from the Bathroom to Pit Top


The sinking of the No1 Shaft west of the escarpment was completed and a High Capacity Vertically Mounted axial flow Ventilation Fan Installed. (First Vent Fan of this design installed at a coal mine). The South Kembla Mine Fan installed in 1952 was taken out of service.


Wongawilli mine renamed Elouera Colliery following the closing and consolidation of the leases of the Nebo and Kemira Collieries.


Mining in the Bulli Seam commenced in 1961 ceases as the available coal reserves were depleted.


Mining of the Wongawilli Seam in the previous Kemira lease commences with the coal mined transported to the surface via the Kemira Drift.


Elouera Colliery created from amalgamation of the Wongawilli, Nebo and Kemira collieries leases.


Elouera Longwall No1 commences operation


Mine ventilation transferred to existing Nebo No4 Shaft Fans (2). The Wongawilli No1 Shaft Fan shut down.


Mine achieves an annual Production of 1.81 Million Tonnes.


Elouera Colliery ceases production after completing extraction of Longwall No 10 Panel.  


Mine resumes production and renamed Delta Colliery by the Delta Mining Company, a Contractor to BHP/Billiton Illawarra Coal.


Delta Coal contract not extended beyond March by Illawarra Coal


Gujarat NRE purchase the Elouera Colliery from Illawarra Coal and rename the mine NRE Wongawilli Colliery.


Gujarat & Jindal Steel & Power involved in lengthy negotiations and Stock Exchange matters regarding the two Companies


Formal name change from Gujarat NRE Coking Coal Ltd. to Wollongong Coal Ltd.


Longwall mining equipment buried under a fall, and declared to be beyond recovery.


Jindal Steel & Power take over from Gujurat NRE and rename the mine Wongawilli Coal Mine.152 employees laid off. Mine placed on Care and Maintenance with a workforce of about 20 men.


Wollongong Coal terminates its supply agreement with parent Company Gujarat


Gujarat NRE purchase the Elouera Colliery from Illawarra Coal and rename the mine NRE Wongawilli Colliery.

Reference Material for this Timeline sourced from the following:

    • Brian Sheldon Illawarra Coal website.
    • Historical Study of Wongawilli Village-Glynis Cummins 2003.
  • RAC 24052016 27052016