Qld rains to cut billions of export dollars

AUSTRALIA’S exports of coal could suffer a severe blow because of the Christmas flooding disaster in Queensland and northern New South Wales, with predictions that up to $6 billion will be cut from the national income.
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This does not include the estimated $1 billion clean-up, insurance payouts and damage to infrastructure from the flood, which has ravaged central Queensland over the last two weeks, causing production delays and stopping coal from being transported to ports.

AMP chief economist Shane Oliver is predicting the effect on export volumes of coal and other commodities could exceed 0.5% of gross domestic product, or $6 billion.

This would be only partially offset by expected increases in the price of coal and rural commodities on national income, he said.

Queensland Resources Council chief executive Michael Roche described the floods as a "severe disruption" to Queensland’s coal mining industry, with some open cut mines in the Bowen Basin not operating for safety reasons.

The main railway line from the central Queensland coalfields to port – the Goonyella line that runs to the coal port of Dalrymple Bay – has been closed since Friday after a derailment and is likely to remain closed until the end of the week.

About 40 trains use the Goonyella line to Dalrymple Bay and the nearby Hay Point, with exports from there worth about $100 million a day.

The towns of Jericho and Alpha in the Galilee Basin, where Clive Palmer and Gina Rinehart are developing coal operations, are on alert for evacuation, as is Emerald in the Bowen Basin.

Xstrata, Vale, Macarthur Coal and Aquila Resources declared force majeure on their Queensland coal operations before Christmas due to the flooding.

Xstrata Coal has confirmed its Rolleston open pit mine and Newlands operation were affected and Rio Tinto said the latest rain had had an impact on all its Queensland operations, while BHP Billiton is not providing updates on its operations in the state.

Macarthur announced a profit downgrade earlier in December due to the rain after exhausting the stockpiles it had built up to carry it through the wet season.

Whitehaven Coal revealed last Friday that the quarterly coal production at its four open cut mines in the Gunnedah Basin, NSW, would be adversely affected by the rains.

The wet weather has continued and at this stage Whitehaven expects that, while saleable coal production for the first half will be about 10% up on last year, it will fall short of budget by about 24% or 700,000 tonnes.