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.

Bellis & Morcom Generator, Wongawilli 1917
From the collection of Ron Cairns

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