In 1969 Austin and Butta opened the Dombarton Colliery, to mine the Wongawilli seam at Dombarton adjacent to the Unanderra to Moss Vale railway line at West Dapto.  In 1970 a decision was made by Austin and Butta to close the mine, following a major collapse of the face of the Escarpment adjacent to the mine site.  This collapse occurred as a result of the extraction of pillars in the bord and pillar workings of the Dombarton mine, and it was considered that this incident would be repeated if the mining and extraction of pillars continued.

The company’s investigations to locate a site to develop a replacement mine led them to an area west of Albion Park, known as Yellow Rock.  This was an area that had been visited in 1915, by the Mines Departments geologist L.F.Harper, who found outcrops of the Balgownie, Wongawilli, and Tongarra Seams, and evidence of two tunnels having been driven in the Tongarra seam, possibly in 1905.  Some mining of the Tongarra seam by the Upton brothers, who had owned the property on which the tunnels were found, had been reported earlier by others living in the area.  This area was chosen by Austin and Butta to open the Yellow Rock Colliery in order to mine the Wongawilli seam. The Dombarton Colliery was closed in 1970, and the surface and underground plant dismantled and transported by road to the Yellow Rock site.

Mine Portal & Conveyor Belt to Washing Plant
From the collection of Ron Cairns

The onsite work required the erection of the former Dombarton Colliery surface plant, the opening of mine portal entries in the Wongawilli seam, the driving of the initial entry underground roadways, and the installation of a mine ventilation fan on the surface.  The coal face mining machinery and a conveyor belt system was installed, to enable the mining of the Wongawilli Seam to commence and deliver that coal from underground by a conveyor belt system to the washing plant on the surface.

A mining lease was granted in 1970, and development approval from Kiama Council and site work followed.  The colliery commenced operations in July 1971, with the coal being processed in the washing plant, and loaded into road trucks for delivery to the Port Kembla Coal Loading Terminal, and exported to the company’s customers.  The production of coal from the mine commenced in July 1971, and the mine closed in June 1987 after sixteen years of operation.  During that time some 3.5 million tonnes of raw coal were produced, including 2.2 million tonnes of steelmaking and fuel coal for export through Port Kembla.

Coal fines recovery using “duckboards” to support heavy equipment
Image from EIS 1046, Shell Company, 1994

Theminesurface plant was disposed of by auction, and rehabilitation of the mine site included theremoval of the small coal remaining in the washery tailings pond, some 16,000 tons of saleable coal being recovered.  The rehabilitation undertaken was completed in 1994, and was most extensive, recognising that the site was in the catchment of environmentally important areas, the Minnamurra and Macquarie Rivulet wetlands. 

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