The development of a cokemaking industry was a logical development in the Illawarra – the local coals were suitable for the production of a high quality coke, its production added value to the coal product, and the process of winning the coal usually was associated with the production of an amount of small coal. That small coal was not well suited for fuel use, and hence became a zero-value byproduct in the absence of some process to use it. Cokemaking required small coal as a feedstock. The result of these factors was that over the period from 1884 fourteen coke plants of the beehive style were established in the Illawarra, including a number of large industrial operations. The last of these plants closed down in 2012 and 2013 after one hundred years and ninety-nine years of operation respectively, largely as the result of changing world economic circumstances, and the shift of coke-consuming industries to developing countries. (Other large byproduct coking capacity remains in operation as part of the local steel industry.)
The two beehive coke plants concerned were those at Corrimal and Coalcliff. Both were associated in their early development with particular mines; both saw substantial development over their life such that at the end of their lives they employed modern technology by world standards, particularly as regards emission controls. While they were owned by separate companies for most of their lives, in 1984 Illawarra Coke Company, the owner of the Coalcliff cokeworks (and mine) purchased Corrimal cokeworks, and the two plants were operated jointly by that company until their closures. Both cokeworks outlived the mines which had been associated with their establishment.
The sections which follow describe the two plants separately.
Go to Corrimal Cokeworks.
Go to Coalcliff Cokeworks.