By DICK CUTLER
A MAJOR study has begun into a possible resumption of coal mining at Nymboida.
A syndicate headed by Rhodesian-born businessman Peter Sear is proposing to mine proven reserves in the Basin Creek area, immediately adjacent to the former Nymboida colliery, and is searching for other coal outcrops in the area.
The syndicate plans to use relatively new mining technology, involving the use of huge augers to drill as much as 500-metres horizontally into the underground coal seams. Benches would be dug into the sides of hills to provide the platform for the augers, which would move around the feature to follow the coal seams.
The auger system of mining is regarded as being much more environmentally friendly than the older-style practice of burrowing out a lattice-work of tunnels underground.
This system has led to mine subsidence problems in most coal mining areas and the new auger system is also less expensive, particularly through big savings in labour costs. The old Nymboida colliery, which opened in 1909, originally supplied coal delivered by bullock teams to coastal steamers in Grafton.
The project grew over the years to the point where it had 150 people on the payroll, and supplied 500 tonnes of coal a week to the Koolkhan power station.
When the power station had to close because of the health and safety implications of the asbestos used in its construction, the writing was on the wall for the Nymboida mine.
The operating company closed the colliery in 1975 but the miners and the Miner's Union took it over to recover money owed in leave and long service entitlements.
It operated on that basis until it finally closed in 1979.
Nymboida man Cossie Scott ? who owns the mine property and buildings ? says renewed interest in Nymboida has arisen following a four-fold increase in the price of coal, to more than $200 a tonne.
"The big price increase has led to a new study of quite a few former mines, including some in the Newcastle area and others in Queensland," Mr Scott said.
"The Department of Mineral Resources has been involved in the process.
"Nymboida has a high-quality coking coal which is ideal for industry in China, which is where the main market would be.
"We need to prove reserves of more than one-million tonnes of coal, to allow the operators to get the 1000 tonnes a day they need to make it viable.
"They also have to solve the problems of getting the coal to the major overseas markets, through road, rail and sea transport.
"It's a big job, particularly in view of the fact that only 500 tonnes a week came out of Nymboida in the past, but it can be done."
Mr Scott says new coal outcrops have already been identified in the Laytons Range and Kangaroo Creek areas, and the search is continuing for what are thought to be large deposits in the hills between Nymboida and Kangaroo Creek.