BHP announced that limited economic reserves of Bulli Seam coal and additional recovery costs will result in the closure of the Cordeaux colliery in New South Wales in March next year. Longwall mining at the mine began in 1986.
But the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) Illawarra believes the closure, which would result in the loss of about 50 jobs, was retaliation for the latest round of strikes by the union over pay deals. In the past month, BHP has been hit by a series of rolling stoppages by the CFMEU at seven coal operations in New South Wales and Queensland covering pay deals for some 1000 coalminers.
The closure announcement follows earlier downsizings of the mine workforce in October 1997 and July 1999, which saw the mine workforce drop to 50.
A spokesperson for BHP Illawarra Coal said development of new mining areas ceased on November 13, and the activities of 20 contractors engaged on development operations had ceased.
"We will continue to mine the current longwall 31 until about March 2001, when we will review the mine plan," he said.
"With the limited reserves and low yields available, the most likely scenario is to place the operation on care and maintenance."
The spokesperson said a plan to prolong the life of the operation by moving into West Bellambi reserves had not been successful because of high costs. Cordeaux produced 823,000 ROM tonnes of coal for the fiscal year to June 2000.
"The extra tonnes we require will now come from our other operations," he said.
Meanwhile, the Elouera mine near Wollongong in NSW is slated to close in 2004. A feasibility study at Dendrobium in the Illawarra region has begun to maintain supply of Elouera’s No 3 seam coal, used by BHP plants for steelmaking.
BHP said the feasibility study for the project would fully assess the benefits of the new mine to BHP stakeholders and the wider community in order to decide whether to proceed.