Lake Macquarie History

Awaba Colliery

Written and researched by Bonnie Murdoch

Awaba has a long history of coal mining. It has been an ideal site for coal mining because of the Great Northern Seam. The existence of coal in the area was highlighted in an article in the Town and Country Journal of 25 August 1883.

"Among other properties that are worth enumerating is that of Mr. W. A. Kingscote, 1100 aores situate near Lake Macquarie at Awaba, on the railway line to be made between Hombush and Waratah. The ground has been proved to be coal-bearing by the Government diamond drills, one of which completed a depth of 523ft. proving one very good seam of coal. The other drill, besides proving coal, has tapped an artesian supply of water, which now rises 30ft above the surface."

Some small mines operated around the area in 1920s and 1930s, flourishing during the coal lockouts and the great deoression. These mines were often called 'Rat Holes' while geologists thought of them as 'little scratching coal mines'. The Blowfly, The Marshfly, Awaba and Milroy all operated for varying times during this period.

The Awaba Colliery shows the changing circumstances of Awaba mining. It was first opened in 1892 then temporally suspended in 1893. Records then show there was no further work at the mine.

The coal was won by hand-mining methods and delivered to the surface by skips. Fourteen people were employed there at the time. The ventilation was noted as poor by the Government Inspector but the problem was rectified with a new furnace. It was abandoned in 1929 despite 52 men being employed there (38 below ground, 14 above ground) and another change of ownership.

Awaba State Coal Mine

photo: unidentified mine

Development began on the The Awaba State Coal Mine in 1948. It was developed to produce coal for the exclusive use of the Lake Macquarie Power Station being developed at nearby Wangi Wangi, and other Department of Railways power stations around the state. The NSW premier said that the Awaba State Coal Mine 'would be worked by the most up to date mechanised methods' (Saxon). Nonetheless, it still used pit horses until 1965. 40 horses were originally used. The last horses were used on the surface. It was Len Field's job to look after the pit horses ‘seven days a week’ (Saxon).

The Awaba State Coal Mine changed its name to the Awaba Colliery in 1994. The mine was set to close in 2011 but has been given an extension until December 2015, with ongoing employment of 100 people.

Reference:

Andrews, Brian John Coal Services Pty Ltd 2011,Coal mines of NSW, Coal Services Pty Ltd.], [Sydney]

Saxon, Doug Awaba Public School. Parents and Citizens Association 1988, Pit props and sleepers : the story of Awaba, Awaba Public School Parents and Citizens Association, [Awaba, N.S.W.]

Latimer, C.. 2011. Centennial Coal's Awaba colliery to close.. [ONLINE] Available at: www.miningaustralia.com.au/news/centennial-coal-s-awaba-colliery-to-close. [Accessed 10 September 2014].