Predecessor's shadow hangs like a deathly pall

Unpaid debt from Arun Jagatramka's company Gujarat NRE is still causing problems for Wollongong Coal executives.

Unpaid debt from Arun Jagatramka's company Gujarat NRE is still causing problems for Wollongong Coal executives.

The spectre of Arun Jagatramka is still haunting the workers and executives of Wollongong Coal, with an unpaid debt from his company Gujarat NRE Coke, and a failed engagement with the approvals process, still hobbling the local miner.

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Wollongong Coal is owed more than $60 million from its former parent company, Gujarat NRE Coke, for coal contracts the parent has not settled.

Gujarat NRE Coke itself has troubles, having lost a second court case over a $9 million debt to Coeclerici Asia, a Singaporean company it failed to provide with 40,000 tonnes of coal that had already been paid for.

The price of coal has been steadily sinking worldwide, leading to job losses across the industry. But Wollongong Coal's main problems are the lack of proper planning approval to expand its Russell Vale mine, coupled with the loss of the longwall miner at Wongawilli.

While Jagatramka was running Gujarat NRE Coking Coal (now renamed Wollongong Coal), the company failed to properly address the approvals process for its expansion at Russell Vale.

Instead, it relied on temporary Subsidence Management Plans and longwall modifications - piecemeal solutions which have exhausted the patience of regulatory agencies.

A change of government in NSW meant some delays in the approvals process, and the fact Gujarat NRE had not been paying contractors on time, meant delays in finding people willing to do the work.

When confronted with an impasse the miner has repeatedly warned it might shut down operations if it's not allowed to continue mining while the expansion approvals are being sorted.

So now, without further mining at Russell Vale, and Wongawilli stalled, the company can't sell coal while it tries to find a way to dig coal out of its southern mine.

In the meantime 300 workers, many with families to support, and most having stuck with the company through its troubles, find their jobs hanging in the balance.

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