Natural disaster brings giants to their knees

TORRENTIAL rains that caused flash floods in Queensland has led two mining giants to declare force majeure as the city of Mackay is declared a disaster area.

Christine Feary

Rio Tinto was the second company to declare force majeure yesterday at its open cut Hail Creek mine. Earlier in the day Xstrata declared force majeure on coal shipments from its Newlands and Collinsville operations.

"Hail Creek has had no choice but to declare force majeure," a Rio Tinto representative said.

"We've had to cease production because of the impact (of the floods)."

So far, the city of Mackay is the worst affected area, with torrential rain causing severe flash flooding in the city and restricting access.

More than 500 millimetres of rain was recorded in Mackay in the six hours to 11am today, with 200mm of that falling in one hour. Roads in and around the city have been cut off or barricaded and residents have been warned not to travel.

"When people say it is bucketing down - well, here it actually is," a local Mackay resident told International Longwall News.

Many mine workers who travel in and out of Mackay have been prevented from returning to work or have experienced delays returning home after finishing their shift as creek waters across roads rapidly rise and fall.

The mining town of Emerald, which is still recovering from similar floods last month, has so far escaped serious damage from the current wave of bad weather. Resident Judi Liosatos said the prospect of facing further flooding had a lot of people scared.

"They're predicting major floods here in the next month, more so than what we've actually just gone through," she said.

"That is scaring a lot of people, a lot of people are even considering leaving - nobody knows really what area is actually safe any more."

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