For 85 years, Illawarra Metallurgical Coal has produced high-quality metallurgical coal used for steelmaking, which is shipped around Australia and around the world.

Our Dendrobium Mine in the Illawarra region of New South Wales is an existing underground mine, primarily producing metallurgical coal for steelmaking.

We are seeking approval for the continuation of mining activities within the existing Dendrobium mining lease. In 2021, the Independent Planning Commission (IPC) determined that the project should not proceed.

The Dendrobium Mine Extension Project has since been declared State Significant Infrastructure (SSI) by the NSW Government enabling Illawarra Metallurgical Coal to submit a new Project Application for consideration.

A revised mine plan has been developed for the Dendrobium Mine Extension Project, incorporating the feedback from the IPC and community where possible. It would extend the mine life by about 10 years.

The Project would create more than 100 construction jobs and secure ongoing employment of more than 650 jobs, with 90 per cent of employees residing in the Illawarra region.

With careful planning, mining can co-exist with the NSW Government's objectives for the long-term sustainability of the Sydney water catchment and the sustainable development of the State's resources which creates jobs for generations of people.



history in the illawarra

About 2,000



employees living locally


spent locally in fy21

The Benefits

Dendrobium began operating in 2002 as an underground longwall mine and remains an essential supplier to Australian steelmakers, including the Port Kembla Steelworks and Whyalla Steelworks.

The revised mine plan would result in significantly reduced environment and cultural heritage impacts, while still providing a contribution to the local and state economies through the continued operations of Dendrobium Mine, Port Kembla Steelworks and other dependent operations to the Wollongong and NSW economies.

If approved, the Project would continue to deliver strong economic benefits for the local community, sustaining the positive contribution Illawarra Metallurgical Coal has made for 85 years.

The Project would support the continued employment of 650 people working at Dendrobium mine, create an additional 100 jobs during the construction phase, contribute A$280 million in royalties (in real terms) and $160million in State and Corporate tax.



ongoing full-time jobs


jobs during construction







We have developed a revised mine plan incorporating, where possible, feedback from the IPC and the community. The revised plan reduces environmental and cultural impacts wherever possible on the area, while maintaining the significant economic benefits to the local community and the State.

Compared to the initial pplan, this and other changes will:

  • Preserve the water catchment through a 60% reduction in the longwall mining area and avoidance of key streams and swamps
  • Preserve key dams and rovers with the mine plan setback 400m from key rivers and streams and at least 1,000m setbacks from dam walls
  • Significantly reduce predicted surface water losses by approximately 78%
  • Not longwall mine beneath Aboriginal Heritage sites assessed to have high archaeological significance, and reduces the number of other previously identified Aboriginal Heritage sites directly mined beneath from 22 sites to six sites (73%)

We believe that with careful planning, mining can co-exist with the NSW Government’s objectives for the long-term security of our water catchment and the sustainable development of the State’s  resources.



Water Monitoring Devices in catchment areas


Water Samples Collected since 2005


reduction in the proposed mine area avoiding key streams and swamps


mining experience in local catchment areas

Metallurgical Coal

Metallurgical coal is an essential raw material used in the steelmaking process, and for 85 years Illawarra Metallurgical Coal (IMC) has supplied this critical ingredient to its customers.

Coal mining and steelmaking in the Illawarra are strongly linked. South32 is the largest coal producer in the Southern Coalfield and makes a significant contribution to the Southern Coalfield economic ecosystem. The proximity of the Southern Coalfield metallurgical coal mines is a major factor in BlueScope's ability to make steel economically.



steelmaking established at port kembla


annual steel production at Port Kembla Steelworks


kilograms of coal used for every tonne of steel


kilograms of steel contained in the average car



Water is a critical resource and successful long-term environmental management is essential to our business.

Our revised mine plan reduces our footprint and thereby reduces potential impacts as identified by the NSW Independent Planning Commission:

  1. Preserves the water catchment through a 60% reduction in longwall mining area and avoidance of key streams and swamps
  2. Preserves key dams and rivers with the mine plan setback 400m from key rivers and streams and at least 1,000m setbacks from dam walls
  3. Significantly reduces predicted peak annual surface water losses by approximately 78%

Thousands of monitoring sites at our mines help us understand our interaction with the environment, including the water beneath the ground and on the surface. Our comprehensive environmental monitoring network allows us to predict and reduce possible impacts.

As part of our proposal, we commit to offset any impact on surface water sources to ensure that the project is a positive contributor on priority water projects to result in a net benefit to Sydney's drinking water supply.



Next steps


The Dendrobium Mine Extension Project has been determined State Significant Infrastructure (SSI) by the NSW Government. We have lodged our Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) which is on public exhibition from 4 May 2022 for six weeks and we encourage everyone to review and provide feedback.

The EIS is available on the NSW Planning Portal.

Typical steps in the SSI approval process are outlined below.


Dendrobium Mine Extension Project, NSW Planning Process

Important web links

NSW Government Major Projects Planning Portal 

Visit Major Projects Portal to view and download the EIS or make a submission. NOTE: All online submissions must be made through the NSW Government's Major Project Planning Portal

NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment

The Department has an important role in assessing and determining proposals for major development in NSW to ensure the need for new jobs is balanced with the needs of the community and environment.

South32 Illawarra Metallurgical Coal Documents (e.g. DCCC Minutes)

View and download Illawarra Metallurgical Coal's environmental approvals, conditions of consent, community consultative committee meeting minutes and more. 

For project enquiries, please email [email protected]