PERTH (miningweekly.com) – The resumption of coal exports from Queensland could be delayed by several weeks, as the state recovers from the damage caused by cyclone Debbie, which hit last week.
The Goonyella system, which connects the Darymple Bay coal terminal and the Hay Point coal terminal, has been closed since March 28, as a result of severe flooding.
Aerial inspections have been conducted and a programme of work is being assessed and planned, with freight operator Aurizon saying on Monday that road and rail access to the rail corridor was severely limited, especially around the Black Mountain area, where initial assessment has indicated that significant landslips have occurred.
Aurizon said the company would examine alternative routing opportunities for its impacted customers and rail operators as its other rail systems became available in the coming weeks, from the western section of the Goonyella system, north to the Newlands system to Abbot point coal terminal, and south to the Port of Gladstone.
It was currently estimated that the recovery of the Goonyella rail infrastructure could take as much as five weeks.
Mining giant BHP Billiton, which also uses the Goonyella rail line to service several of its coal mines in the region, on Monday said it would seek to manage ongoing access to ports and shipments to customers.
The miner said in a statement that the Hay Point terminal was ready to receive coal.
BHP noted that dewatering infrastructure installed at its mines after the 2011 floods were working as designed and that all sites were now resuming operations and ramping up production.
The miner holds an interest in 11 coal mines in the Bowen basin. Nine of these are held in joint venture with Mitsubishi, of which seven are operational and two are on care and maintenance, while BHP Billiton Mitsui Coal owns two mines.The 55-million-tonne-a-year Hay Point coal terminal is also held by the BHP Mitisubishi alliance.
Meanwhile, coal producer Peabody Energy said that its mines in the region have also restarted operations, the outages of the rail systems were preventing coal shipments from mine to port.
The US major noted that it was still too early to assess the impact on volumes and the results of the delays in transporting coal to the export market, or the impact of the delays on the second quarter price negotiations with metallurgical coal customers.
Australian producer Stanmore Coal has also said delays due to transport service delivery and potential extended shipping queues may impact sales for the remainder of 2017.