* Dalrymple Bay halts coal loading after stockpiles run low
* QR National says disruptions to affect shipments into Jan
* Gladstone Port to operate at half capacity this week
* Coal markets already tight, closely watch Australia
(Adds weather details, no rain impact to NSW's Hunter Valley)
By Rebekah Kebede
PERTH, Dec 29 Heavy rains and flooding in
Australia's key coal-producing Queensland state have impacted
mining operations and brought parts of the coal
infrastructure, including rail and ports, to a standstill,
operators said on Wednesday.
Dalrymple Bay Coal terminal and Gladstone Ports, two of
Australia's biggest coal export terminals, and rail firm QR
National , the nation's top coal transporter, said
they were forced to cut back operations due to weather-related
Rio Tinto joined several other companies in
declaring force majeure on some coal sales contracts on
Wednesday due to the heavy rains, saying the severe monsoonal
rains impacted mining operations, access to roads, and
disrupted rail hauling. Rio's shares ended down about 1
percent on Wednesday. [ID:nSYU010748][ID:nL3E6N902I]
Production at Anglo American Metallurgical Coal ,
in particular its Dawson mine in Queensland state, has been
disrupted by rains and flooding, which have severely
restricted access to the mine. [ID:nL3E6NT04G]
Australia is the world's biggest exporter of coking coal
used for steel-making and accounts for about two-thirds of
global trade. The nation is also the second-biggest exporter
of thermal coal used for power generation after Indonesia,
with about 20 percent of world exports.
The country's unusually wet spring and early summer have
already pushed both coking coal and thermal prices sharply
higher and tight markets are keeping a close eye on further
Anglo-Australian mine BHP Billiton is
planning to raise the price of coking coal for Japanese steel
makers by about 8 percent to $225 a tonne for the
January-March period from the current quarter. [ID:nSGE6B10DZ]
Dalrymple Bay Coal terminal at the Port of Hay Point, the
world's largest coal export port with an annual capacity of
129 million tonnes, halted operations as stockpiles have run
too low after a train derailment disrupted supplies.
Dalrymple Bay Coal, which ships mostly metallurgical coal,
stopped coal shipments on Tuesday after it exhausted its coal
stockpiles and aims to restart shipments after Saturday, when
trains are expected to resume transporting coal.
Dalrymple Bay currently has about 200,000 tonnes of coal,
which is unsuitable for loading, down from an ideal working
stockpile of 1.2 million tonnes.
UNUSUAL WEATHER DISRUPTS RAIL
Gladstone Ports Corporation, which has an annual export
capacity of 75 million tonnes, said its RG Tanna coal terminal
will operate at 50 percent of capacity this week due to rail
system closures after flooding and track damage.
"At present we have no trains delivering coal from the
Blackwater and Moura rail systems," Gladstone Ports
Corporation Chief Executive, Craig Walker said in a statement.
"All mines in the region are closed due to the latest
rains," he said, adding he expected the situation to remain
the same for the next 24 hours.
QR National said it was forced to temporarily close its
Goonyella coal haulage system because a Pacific National train
derailment and weather-related problems will affect coal haul
through at least January, as flooding was still hampering
access to tracks and recovery efforts.
"QR National is continuing to assess the track conditions
and the longer-term impact on tonnages and the network,
however heavy rain and flooding is forecast for coming days,"
the company said.
"Until these highly unusual weather impacts subside, it is
not possible to make a full assessment on full-year published
earnings forecast," it said in a statement.
Queensland's torrential rains are due to a La Nina weather
event, which has caused Australia's wettest spring on record,
said the nation's weather bureau. The downpours will continue
with rainfall expected to exceed the median level from
December through February in southeast Queensland and
northeastern New South Wales, where coal production is
However, New South Wales' Hunter Vallery coal operations
have not been impacted, with the rainfall mostly west of
producing areas, a spokesman for the Hunter Valley Coal Chain
Coordinator said on Wednesday.
(Additional reporting by Michael Smith, Narayanan
Somasundaram, and Jim Regan in Sydney; Editing by Balazs
Koranyi and Ramthan Hussain)