Hundreds of Illawarra miners are on the hunt for a job after Wollongong Resources closed the Russell Vale and Wongawilli mines yesterday.
An all staff email was sent out on Monday afternoon, informing employees that the mine's owner Jindal Steel and Power intended to close the mine.
Workers were invited to a briefing on Tuesday morning at Russell Vale where they were told about the mine's closure and what is next for them.
Management informed employees that their full entitlements will be met, but that it was no longer viable for the Russell Vale mine to continue, given the recent prohibition order and increased regulatory scrutiny after a series of underground explosions.
The Wongawilli mine had been preparing to re-open, after receiving approvals in 2022.
After the meeting at Russell Value, workers expressed disappointment with the company's decision.
"It's shit," miner Tim McNamara said. "Time to find another job."
Karen de Villiers, who works in procurement at the mine, said she was hopeful of finding another role in the mining sector.
"I'll be looking for a job, but I'm sure there's something, there's a lot of opportunity out there."
Other miners including Michael Cox said they were less confident about the company's assurance they will be paid out, and this would place further strain on family budgets.
"It's terrible, you've got kids' birthdays and things, it's not good."
Workers representatives said while there was scope for miners to work on other coal mines in the Illawarra, others would have to look further afield.
"It's a sad day for the region because of the long history of coal mining at Russell Vale," Mining and Energy Union south western district secretary Andy Davey said. "It's always difficult to lose so many local jobs, with the flow-on effect to families and community."
The decision to shut down the mine did not come as a surprise to many, after the NSW Resources Regulator imposed a prohibition order earlier this year. This followed a series of underground explosions at the mine, with five underground gas fires occurring in less than two years since the mine reopened.
This had already caused mass layoffs, with those still on the payroll aware that their jobs may be next.
Despite this, Mr Davey said the union was hopeful that another operator would take over the leases and continue mining at Russell Vale and Wongawilli.
"The Bulli and Wongawilli coal seams produce some of the world's best metallurgical coal for steel-making," he said. "We'd like to see these leases handed over to an operator who can run these mines efficiently and safely."
Environmental campaigners called for the mine to be closed permanently, given the site's history of pollution of nearby waterways and the threat to the water catchment.
Lock the Gate Alliance NSW coordinator Nic Clyde said the NSW government should not let the mine be sold, but rather the site should be rehabilitated and closed for good.
"Illawarra residents have seen coal sludge from Russell Vale turn Bellambi Creek black too many times," Mr Clyde said.
"The water catchment is both an environmentally sensitive area, and an incredibly important resource for the future of Sydney and the Illawarra's drinking water. Coal mines should never have been dug beneath it."
The Mercury can also reveal the closure comes only days after Wollongong Resources informed community members that the company was seeking to expand the areas it was permitted to mine.
In a letter, the company proposed to increase the total mining area by 10 per cent, which would involve negotiations with South32's Illawarra Coal arm to access additional areas.
If successful, this would increase the total amount of coal to be extracted to 5.5 million tonnes and extend the approved mine life by 18 months to March 31, 2028. The miner also sought to increase the rate of production, to 1.8 million tonnes per year.
Operating hours and maximum truck movements would remain the same.