Wet weather hits major Qld players

CENTRAL Queensland miners received yet another taste of what is expected to be a particularly nasty wet season, with mine closures, rail delays and other stoppages plaguing the industry over the past few days.
Wet weather hits major Qld players Wet weather hits major Qld players Wet weather hits major Qld players Wet weather hits major Qld players Wet weather hits major Qld players


Blair Price

Queensland chief inspector of coal mines Gavin Taylor listed some of the mines which either suffered from recent closures, or were operating below capacity because of heavy rain and flooding.

“Mines affected include Curragh, Isaac Plains, Oaky Creek, Coppabella, Baralaba, Rolleston, Moorvale, Carborough Downs, Peak Downs and Newlands,” he said yesterday.

“I’m advised the Crinum and Kestrel mines are flying staff in from Emerald by helicopter and fixed wing aircraft.”

Queensland Rail National has reopened all the impacted main lines, with the Blackwater system back online on Sunday.

Yesterday a QRN spokeswoman told ILN that just a few branch lines required additional track repairs.

“Services in the Moura System continue and QR National has offered additional trains for customers,” she said.

“Further north the Goonyella System which has been affected by delays and cancellations due to the wet weather is now open. Speed restrictions are in place in the Goonyella and Blackwater systems as a safety precaution."

Goldman Sachs was quick to slash production forecasts for BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Macarthur Coal.

Detailed in a report released yesterday, the broker expects BHP Billiton’s Queensland saleable production to fall from 8.5 million tonnes in the recent quarter to 6.9Mt in the December quarter and 6.1Mt the following quarter.

Southern New South Wales was hit by major flooding over the weekend, especially Wagga Wagga where a natural disaster was declared.

But heavy rain is also expected in the Hunter Valley, with a possible thunderstorm forecast for Singleton on Friday.

Goldman expects Rio Tinto subsidiary Coal & Allied to produce 24.5Mt for 2010, slightly down on the 25.2Mt realised in 2009 and the 25.1Mt in 2008.

The investment bank is tipping Macarthur to ship 4.5Mt for 2010, compared to guidance of 5Mt.

No changes were made to its production outlook for BHP’s Illawarra mines.

“At this stage we have not made any coal price forecast changes but reduced production obviously increases the risk of a tighter coking coal market and spiking prices,” Goldman said.

The cost so far

Queensland Resources Council chief executive Michael Roche is lamenting the continued thunderstorm activity which continued yesterday.

"We're just adding more and more water to already primed water courses and water storages, and coal pits now are looking more like dams," he told the ABC.

He reportedly said existing stockpiles might not be enough to meet export obligations.

Yesterday, the Bligh government started state and federal disaster relief programs for 11 shires in central and southwestern Queensland.

“In recent days we have seen heavy rainfall across central and southwestern Queensland causing damage to essential public assets like roads and bridges,” Bligh said.

“The current damage estimate is $151 million, but this figure could increase in the coming days and weeks as more damage is identified.”

The Banana, Barcaldine, Barcoo, Blackall-Tambo, Bundaberg, Central Highlands, Fraser Coast, Gladstone, Lockyer Valley, Longreach and Rockhampton councils can access financial assistance for repairs and other costs.

Planning for the worst in Qld

Taylor said all rain-affected mines activated their Target Action Response Plans to ensure safety, but he again warned that the mining industry must be prepared to face what could be the worst storm season in years.

The Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation has provided a “full checklist” of preparations for mine operators to undertake: www.dme.qld.gov.au/mines/natural_disaster_planning.cfm