Brown Study Abroad
In 1877 Brown's uncle Alexander had died leaving his £100,000 estate to his nephews; in 1882 James appointed John general manager and handed over his coal interests to his sons in 1886. John Brown remained in control of policy. He extended the Minmi mine and benefited from membership of the Vend, a cartel which regulated prices and shared the trade between Newcastle coal-proprietors, but be left it in 1890. Free to reduce prices and with no shareholders to satisfy, he embarked on a period of trade expansion which contributed to the dissolution of the Vend and thereby helped to impoverish the district. In 1896, when many collieries were idle, his Minmi mines worked on 256 out of a possible 280 days and next year were active on 264: the firm's annual output exceeded 300,000 tons in 1897-1901. In the early 1900s Brown expanded his South Maitland interests, acquiring the high-producing Pelaw Main and Richmond Main collieries, and by 1904 had connected both to the firm's Minmi-Hexham railway. He also built up the fleet of tugboats which operated in both Sydney and Newcastle.