Clarence colliery is an underground thermal coal mine in New South Wales. It is a joint venture, with 85% interest owned by Centennial Coal and 15% interest owned by SK Energy Australia Pty Ltd. Centennial Coal is a wholly owned subsidiary of Banpu Public Company, a Thai coal mining company.
- Sponsor: Clarence Joint Venture: Centennial Coal owns 85% of the mine in a joint venture with SK Energy Australia Pty Ltd (15%)
- Parent Company: Banpu Public Company (owns Centennial Coal)
- Location: Located in the Western Coalfield approximately 15 km east of Lithgow in New South Wales.
- GPS Coordinates: -33.4597, 150.2479 (exact)
- Status: Operating
- Production Capacity: Full production capacity of the mine is 2.5 Mt/year. 2019 production was 1.6 Mt.
- Total Resource:153.33 (as of 2019)
- Mineable Reserves: 31.9 Mt (as of 2019)
- Coal type: thermal coal
- Mine Size:
- Mine Type: underground
- Start Year: 1979
- Source of Financing:
Mining began at Clarence colliery in 1979, while coal storage and transport from the site by rail commenced in 1980 and a coal preparation plant came into production in July 1981. Centennial coal obtained the mine in 1998.
In December 2005, Clarence colliery was granted approval to expand operations and convert four exploration tenements into a new mining lease.
Coal at Clarence colliery is extracted from the Katoomba Coal seam and the Lithgow Coal seam using bord and pillar methods. Product coal is transported to Port Kembla for export market by rail via the mine’s rail loop and the main Western Railway. Additionally, approximately 200,000 tonnes per year is transported by road to domestic markets, primarily in Sydney.
The mine is a joint venture operation, known as the Clarence Joint Venture. Centennial Coal has 85% interest in the Clarence Joint Venture, while SK Energy Australia Pty Ltd has 15% interest. Centennial Coal is a wholly owned subsidiary of Banpu Public Company. Centennial Coal’s share in the Clarence Joint Venture is comprised of a number of wholly owned subsidiaries: Coalex Pty Ltd (51% share), Clarence Coal Investments Pty Ltd (29% share) and Centennial Clarence Pty Ltd (5% share).
Pollution of Wollangambe River
Throughout most of its lifetime, Clarence Colliery has struggled to avoid polluting the Wollangambe River. Even the construction of the mine and related infrastructure in the 1970s and early 1980s caused problems with the siltation of the river, causing Coalex Pty Ltd to be prosecuted by the State Pollution Control Commission for failing to prevent pollution of the Wollangambe River.
In 1995 the Colong Foundation for Wilderness wrote to the EPA reporting a black sludge on the bed of the Wollangambe River downstream of Clarence Colliery. This was biofilm — derived from manganese oxides and microfine film. This prompted further studies, which found higher concentrations of several metals (aluminium, cobalt, iron, manganese, nickel, zinc and sulfur) in Wollangambe River sediments downstream of the colliery than upstream of the colliery.
A report published by the Colong Foundation for Wilderness in 2010 wrote that the mine’s pollution on the water supply also impacted Lithgow citizens, who draw water from the Clarence transfer system in times of low rainfall.
In July 2015, after at least 2 fines from the EPA for bypassing the limit on manganese, another spill occurred from the Clarence Colliery. Many tonnes of fine and coarse reject coal was dispersed in the surrounding environment, including the Wollangambe River. The mine was fined more than $1 million for this spill and the cost of the cleanup. An ABC Article reported that the “fine coal particles affected a 10-kilometre stretch of the river, turning the water black in places.”
In a May 2017 ABC News article, Stephen Rushton for the EPA said the management of the holding cell where the reject coal was placed was "carried out with such a significant amount of incompetence it was a disaster waiting to happen.”
Articles and resources
- "Coal," "Australian Government: Bioregional Assessment," accessed June 2020.
- Mridula Amin,"'We need to find a way forward': The NSW community that put aside differences to battle the Gospers Mountain fires," "ABC News," February 8, 2020.
- "ANNUAL REPORT: 2019," "BANPU PUBLIC COMPANY LIMITED," February 2020.
- "Year-end Mineral Reserves," "Banpu website," accessed June 2020.
- "CENTENNIAL COAL: CLARENCE COLLIERY ANNUAL REVIEW," "Centennial Coal," March 2019.
- "Mining Operations Plan: Clarence Colliery 1 January 2018 to 31 October 2022," "Centennial Coal," November 2019.
- "ASSESSMENT REPORT: PROPOSED EXTENSION OF THE CLARENCE COAL MINE," "NSW Government: Department of Planning and Environment," accessed June 2020.
- "Annual Environmental Management Report," "Centennial Coal," 2013.
- "Clarence Colliery Discharge Investigation," "NSW Government: Office of Environment & Heritage," June 2015.
- Keith Muir, "The Impact of Coal Mining on the Gardens of Stone," "The Colong Foundation for Wilderness," March 2010.
- Jade Macmillan, "Coal miner Clarence Colliery fined $1 million for major Wollangambe River spill in Blue Mountains," "ABC News," July 14, 2017.
- Michelle Brown, "Clarence Colliery coal mining wastewater dam collapse a 'disaster waiting to happen'," "ABC News," May 8, 2017.