Waterways affected: Cataract Reservoir catchment

The Russell Vale Colliery is an underground coal mine west of Russell Vale. The mine has been in operation since the 1880s – using various methods to mine different coal seams. It mines beneath the Special Areas of the Greater Sydney Water Catchment. It has been in care and maintainance mode since 2015, and mining recommenced in late 2021.

Russell Vale Colliery is operated by Wollongong Resources (formerly known as Wollongong Coal Ltd), who removed itself from the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) in July 2020. The majority shareholder in Wollongong Resources is Jindal Steel and Power Mauritius Ltd, which is in turn 100% owned by Indian company Jindal Steel and Power.

Wollongong Coal has been in the headlines regarding an investigation by the Resources Regulator into whether or not it is “fit and proper” to carry a mining license. The company was also forced to close its Wongawilli Coal mine in 2019 due to safety concerns after a “series of roof collapses”.

Russell Vale Colliery Underground Expansion

Wollongong Resources was granted approval from the NSW Independent Planning Commission in 2020 for a 5 year expansion. They plan to mine a third seam of coal (Wongawilli seam) beneath two previously mined seams (Bulli and Bellambi seams) using a bord-and-pillar method, yielding 3.7 million tonnes of coal. This would be predominantly metallurgical (coking) coal, with some thermal coal as a byproduct. All of the coal is to be exported.

Multi seam mining has scant precedent and the outcomes are difficult to predict. Instability in the overlaying old Bulli seam workings may cause pillar collapse and subsequent surface subsidence of 1 to 2 metres.

A processing plant has been built on site to process coal. Coal would then be trucked from Russell Vale along Memorial Drive to Port Kembla Coal Terminal. Wollongong Resources has approval for up to 32 truck movements per hour, or one coal truck every 112 seconds on Memorial Drive.

Wollongong Resources has explicitly stated that the purpose of this proposal is to pave the way for a much larger expansion of mining around Cataract Reservoir and to its west.

Wollongong Resources’ consultants stated in 2019 “LOM [Life of Mine] of at least 5 years to provide sufficient time for necessary studies and approval process for mining in Wonga Central and Wonga/Bulli West areas.” (RUSSELL VALE UEP, Revised Mine Plan: Presentation to CCC 06 June 2017, p7)

You can read more about POWA’s detailed concerns about this expansion here.

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