POSITIVE VIEW: Catherine Hill Bay resident Mick McCall would welcome a return of mining in the town. Picture Peter Stoop A coal ship at the Catherine Hill Bay jetty in 1964.
LONG AND STORIED: ‘‘B Pit’’ photo at the Catherine Hill Bay mines.
PROSPEROUS: Historic mining town Catherine Hill Bay’s second jetty on Lake Macquarie. After 11 years, coalmining may return to the town.
COALMINING is again on the agenda for Catherine Hill Bay, 11 years after the final coal ship left the historic town.
Mining company Lake Coal wants to explore for coal under a 655-hectare area from Catherine Hill Bay headland south to Wybung Head and across to the Pacific Highway.
Some ‘‘Catho’’ residents, including well-known surfer Mick McCall, said they were not concerned about a return to mining in the town, which was the site of coalmining from 1873 until the Moonee colliery shut in 2002.
Catherine Hill Bay Progress Association secretary David Knock was also at ease with the situation, saying his group’s major concern was with heritage, not mining.
Rosecorp managing director Bryan Rose said the return of mining could have an impact on his family’s proposal to build 550 houses on the edge of these plans.
The Rose family originally bought land from Lake Coal – then under different ownership – and like all involved at the time believed that mining was over at Catherine Hill
Neither Mr Rose nor the progress association – which said it had a good relationship with Lake Coal – knew about the plan until contacted by the Newcastle Herald.
Moonee had large reserves of high-quality coal when it shut under low coal prices in 2002.
Rumours of a return flew after subsequent price rises but Lake Coal told the Herald in 2008 it ‘‘would not return to Moonee or [its sister mine] Wallarah’’.
Lake Coal operates the Chain Valley colliery, about seven kilometres west of Catherine Hill Bay on the southern edge of Lake Macquarie.
On the Catherine Hill Bay plans, a Lake Coal spokesman said the company had applied to the NSW Minister for Resources and Energy for ‘‘consent to apply’’ for an exploration licence over the 655-hectare area.
‘‘The area is part of a previous mining lease and consolidated coal lease that was held by Lake Coal but relinquished back in 2003,’’ the spokesman said.
A mining notice made public last Wednesday invited submissions on the application, but only from parties ‘‘that may have a legitimate interest in exploring the coal resources within this area’’.
The Lake Coal spokesman stressed that success in securing an exploration licence would not necessarily result in mining, although he confirmed that was the ultimate intention.
He said that if mining eventuated, the coal would come to the surface through ‘‘the existing infrastructure’’ – the company’s Chain Valley colliery.
Mr McCall, who has been president of Catherine Hill Bay boardriders’ club since 1979, said he supported a return to mining.
‘‘I was in the coalmining industry for 33 years,’’ Mr McCall said.
‘‘Fifty years ago, it was thriving.
‘‘It’s no longer that any more, but it’s pretty damn nice how it is.’’
A spokeswoman for the government’s Resources and Energy area said last week’s advertisement allowed anyone else interested in exploring the coal to lodge a submission with the minister, Chris Hartcher.
‘‘If consent is given and an application is lodged and subsequently granted, this would be an extension to Lake Coal’s existing activities, some of which have been in place since 1941,’’ the spokeswoman said.
</iframe Lake Coal colliery expansion plans on display
LAKE Coal’s plans to expand and consolidate its Chain Valley colliery lease are on display with the NSW Department of Planning.
The documents show that Lake Coal wants to lift production at the Chain Valley underground mine from 1.2million tonnes a year to 1.5million tonnes – its previous limit was 750,000.
Some of the lease areas involved are currently held by Centennial Coal.
A Centennial spokeswoman confirmed that geological faults ran across some of the areas, making it easier for Lake Coal to reach the resources. And the two companies had come to a financial arrangement over the lease transfer.