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Regulatory ban blamed for mine shutdown costing 45 jobs

Wollongong Coal Wongawilli Colliery
Wollongong Coal Wongawilli Colliery

A coal mine that has operated for more than a century will be forced to shut down because state authorities have banned mining activities.

Wollongong Coal has decided to shut down its Wongawilli Colliery, 10 km north of Wollongong, New South Wales. The shock decision comes after the NSW Department of Planning and Environment’s Resources Regulator issued prohibition notices, forcing the proponent to complete a risk assessment and adequate control measures and seek approval from the regulator.

However, when mine officials re-entered the mine to carry out this work on April 1, they discovered another fall on the main belt road during the recovery stage.

This prompted the company to try to recover major losses from difficult operating and financial conditions.

“The mining operations at the Wongawilli Colliery will be suspended and placed into ‘care and maintenance’, which will result in a reduction of the workforce by approximately 45 employees,” Wollongong Coal said in a statement to the stock market.

Positions expected to be made redundant include operators, electricians, fitters, deputies and more.

“A small team will be retained to undertake care and maintenance activities,” the company said.

Meanwhile, the Russell Vale Colliery has separately been in care and maintenance since late 2015.

“Due to operational difficulties at the Wongawilli Colliery due to aged infrastructure and equipment, the company has been sustaining significant losses,” Wollongong Coal said.

The company now plans to seek approval for the Underground Expansion Plan (UEP) at the Russell Vale Colliery, which will allow high-quality coking coal to be extracted once again.

“The company expects the UEP will be referred back to the Planning Assessment Commission for determination later this year,” the proponent said.

The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) previously accused Wollongong Coal of trying to save money through outsourcing and casualising the mine workforce.

“Wongawilli Colliery is a classic labour hire rip-off and workers have had enough,” CFMEU Mining & Energy said in a Facebook post dated January 11. “The owner, Wollongong Coal, has outsourced and casualised the whole workforce to drive down pay. We are fighting for a better deal for Wongawilli mine workers and all labour hire workers.”

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