Storms batter Australian mining operations

January 29, 2013

Coal exports from Australia were severely disrupted by heavy rains from storms battering the eastern coast of Australia that shut down rail links on Jan. 27.

Several coal mining companies also reported flooding at openpit mines across the region, as resource-rich Queensland state faced the heaviest rain in two years.

Aurizon, Australia’s largest rail freight company, said it was forced to close its Blackwater and Moura rail lines, which transport coal from more than a dozen mines in the state’s south to the major coal exporting port of Gladstone and nearby refineries. Crews were assessing the damage and working to get the lines running again, the company added.

Australia’s east coast has been battered by heavy flooding, forcing thousands of residents to flee their homes, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Two rail lines in the north of the state, Newlands and Goonyella, were reopened after ex-tropical cyclone Oswald passed through the area, heading south, Aurizon said.

One of the mining companies affected by the rail closures, Xstrata Coal, a unit of Xstrata PLC, said it was looking at “contingency plans.” These plans could include finding alternative routes to get its coal to port, or stockpiling material. Coal production wasn’t “materially affected” by the storm, a company spokesman said.

Emergency officials said the current storm was less severe than floods that devastated the region in 2011, causing heavy damage to coal operations and denting production for months.

The Port of Gladstone was working with customers on plans to restart activities after it was forced to suspend operations at the weekend, a spokeswoman said.

Yancoal Australia Ltd. said production at its Yarrabee and Middlemount open cut mines, in the state’s coal-rich Bowen Basin, was disrupted by the heavy rainfall. Output at Middlemount mine, which it operates with Peabody Energy Corp., would likely be affected for at least three weeks after a levee bank was breached by floodwaters, the company said. Normal operations were likely to resume at the company’s Yarrabee mine this week, it added.

Anglo American PLC, the second largest exporter of coking coal in Australia, said output from some of its operations was disrupted by flooding, along with the road and rail closures.

Gold producer Evolution Mining Ltd. said that its Mt Rawdon operations, southwest of Bundaberg, which closed Jan. 26 because of flooding, would be limited to processing low-grade stock piles of mined raw material when the plant reopens later this week, while the company removes water from the site’s openpit.



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