The Russell Vale Colliery in the Illawarra region of New South Wales will close after facing scrutiny from the regulator in relation to a number of accidents at the mine.

The ABC reported that the impending closure was communicated to employees of the mine via email, with approximately 145 Wollongong Resources workers affected.

There have been five underground fires at the mine in recent months, and after an investigation into the fifth ‘friction fire’ in January, the New South Wales Resources Regulator placed the Russell Vale Colliery under a prohibition order due to safety concerns.

The company’s Wongawilli Colliery is also expected to close as part of the decision.

The Miners’ Union said that the decision to close the Russell Vale Colliery is a sad day for the workforce and local coal industry. 

The union said it was hopeful the leases for Russell Vale and Wongawilli coal mines could be taken over by a new operator rather than the mines being permanently closed. 

Mining and Energy Union South Western District Secretary, Andy Davey, said union representatives had met workers on site today and would continue to support members to ensure they received full entitlements. 

“We understand the regulator has to do its job enforcing the safe operation of coal mines, leading to this decision by Jindal Steel and Power,” Mr Davey said. 

“It’s a sad day for the region because of the long history of coal mining at Russell Vale. It’s always difficult to lose so many local jobs, with the flow-on effect to families and community. 

“We have a thriving local coal industry and we are confident some of these experienced workers will pick up work locally. However we are already aware of some workers looking at moving interstate.” 

 Mr Davey said the leases for Russell Vale and Wongawilli mines should be taken over by a new operator rather than being permanently closed. 

“We will be seeking discussions with the New South Wales government at the earliest opportunity to urge a solution for these coal mines that will keep them open. 

“The Bulli and Wongawilli coal seams produce some of the world’s best metallurgical coal for steel-making. We’d like to see these leases handed over to an operator who can run these mines efficiently and safely.”

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