SYDNEY Jan 29 Heavy tropical rains have
inundated Australia's eastern coalfields, among the largest in
the world, cutting rail haulage lines and halting production.
Emergency officials said the floods were severe, although
not as widespread as the monsoon-like rains that saturated the
region in 2011.
Between 200 and 400 millimeter's fell over Queensland
state's Bowen Basin, home to giant open pit mines owned by BHP
Billiton <BLT.L., Mitsubishi Corp, Anglo
American Peabody Energy and others.
BHP said it was assessing the impact of the rains on its
collieries and would issue a statement later on Tuesday.
A tropical low moving south along Queensland's coast was
causing the flooding. At this stage, there was only a very low
likelihood the system would strengthen, according to the
Australian Bureau of Meteorology.
YANCOAL/PEABODY MINE HIT
A levee bank surrounding the Middlemount mine was breached
and water flowed into the open cut, according to part owner
Production from the mine is likely to be affected for at
least three weeks, although Yancoal could not say for certain.
Peabody Energy and Yancoal Australia are joint owners of the
Separately, production was suspended at Yancoal's Yarrabee
mine at the weekend but was expected to resume this week.
Yancoal said it didn't expect the Yarrabee mine's production
for the quarter to be affected by the suspension.
Australia is the world's largest metallurgical coal
exporter, accounting for roughly two-thirds of global trade.
It is also a major supplier of thermal coals, used in power
Transport group Aurizon Holdings Ltd was forced to
shut parts of its freight rail operations late last week which
transport coal to the port of Gladstone, a key export terminal
on the eastern seaboard.
Cyclones and rain during the 2010-2011 season forced dozens
of companies to evacuate flooded coal mines and wiped out a
significant amount of production for much of the year.
The immediate impact then was a sharp rise in coal prices.
Spot coking coal prices on Tuesday were pegged at over $167
per tonne, above the most recent quarterly settlement of $160
Australia's cyclonic storm season runs from Nov. 1 to April