Gujarat NRE Coking Coal narrowly avoided having electricity cut off at its two Illawarra mines yesterday by using money intended for workers' wages to pay its power bill.
According to an email sent to workers by their union yesterday afternoon, funds which were earmarked to pay employees this week were instead diverted to keep power at Wongawilli and Russell Vale mines running.
Gujarat came within hours of losing power after failing to pay an outstanding electricity bill to Origin Energy.
It is understood the mining company owes more than $1 million to the energy retailer.
Gujarat management did not respond to questions about its power bill payments before the Mercury's deadline
Workers at Russell Vale's NRE No 1 colliery reported seeing Endeavour Energy crews - which are responsible for the physical supply of power - working at the mine's main transformer station yesterday morning.
The power was reportedly due to be cut off at 10am, before an eleventh-hour agreement was reached between the miner and electricity company.
Yesterday afternoon workers were sent an email from their union, which was obtained by the Illawarra Mercury, telling them they would again have to wait to be paid.
"It has been disclosed that due to unforeseen circumstances relating to the notification of intention to disconnect power to both the Wongawilli and Russell Vale sites, funds for payment of this week's wages have been used to keep the sites running," the email said.
"Jindal are in the process of attempting to obtain further funds and a decision will be made [on Friday] regarding payment of this week's outstanding wages.
"Our executives and staff share your frustration and will continue to strive to secure a positive outcome."
An Endeavour Energy spokesman confirmed his company had been working towards a planned power cut-off yesterday morning, but said the "disconnection did not proceed".
"At the request of their retailer [Origin], an Endeavour Energy crew was preparing ... to disconnect one of the points of electricity supply from our network to the Gujarat-owned collieries," he said.
A spokesman for Origin Energy said he was unable to "offer commentary on commercial discussions between [Origin] and one of our customers".
"There has been no change to our provision of supply," he said.
According to an industry source, turning off the power in a longwall mine was likely to lead to flooding as water pumps stopped working, which would in turn lead to the damage of machinery and electronic equipment.