Heavy rains and flooding in central Queensland have cut coal production and exports from the region.
Heavy Rains Hit Australia
The floods have forced many of the biggest miners including BHP Billiton Ltd., Rio Tinto Ltd. and Anglo American PLC to stop production and cancel deliveries.
Oil and iron-ore facilities on the northwest coast scrambled to shut down ahead of a tropical cyclone due over the weekend.
Woodside Petroleum Ltd. and Apache Corp. separately announced the closure of oil fields, while ports accounting for a third of the global trade in iron ore were battening down.
The Port of Bundaberg has been closed to commercial shipping indefinitely, while the coal supply chain to other ports operated by the Gladstone Ports Corp. stopped due to extensive flooding. The port is now able to load only from existing stockpiles, acting chief executive Craig Walker said in a statement Friday.
Coal mining, haulage and export is the major industry in central Queensland, a major global supply source of the coking coal used in steel making. Central Queensland and the Hunter Valley in New South Wales are the heartland of Australia’s 50 billion Australian dollar (US$50.84 billion) a year coal export industry.
After the wettest spring on record across Australia, large areas of the northeastern coast and central Queensland have received in the range of 400 millimeters to 600 millimeters (16 to 24 inches) of rains so far this month, according to the government’s Bureau of Meteorology. The wet season in Queensland usually runs from December to March.
Increased rains this year are associated with a La Nina climate episode in the Pacific Basin. In a tropical climate note issued this week, the weather bureau said La Nina conditions continue to dominate the tropical Pacific, and weather models suggest it will persist through the Southern Hemisphere summer.
The flood damage likely will cost governments hundreds of millions of dollars, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said Friday.
“I can’t give you what the total figure is because I can’t tell you what the damage is going to be because we are still in the middle of the flood,” which is coming to places like Rockhampton City in the coming days, she told reporters during an inspection tour of the region with Queensland Premier Anna Bligh.
Federal and state agencies are working together on disaster relief and recovery arrangements in towns in the path of floods, she said.
Ms. Bligh said a “very serious, dire” situation is emerging in and around Emerald town, warning Friday that a “large group of people will become homeless in the next 24 hours.”
The Mayor of Rockhampton, Brad Carter, said floods in the city of 75,000 could peak at an all-time high by Tuesday and remain near peaks for about 10 days. It is possible authorities will have to invoke compulsory evacuations in parts of the city.
Ms. Gillard announced the government will provide extra payments of up to A$1,000 each for people significantly affected by the flooding crisis, such as those who have lost their houses or whose houses sustained major damage.
That will be in addition to funds provided through the Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements, which are being provided for counter-disaster operations and for the restoration of essential public infrastructure, including bridges, roads and schools.
There are 41 local government areas in Queensland that have been declared natural disasters zones.
In the far northwest, the government’s Bureau of Meteorology said the tropical cyclone is expected to develop Saturday and move southwest along the Pilbara coast, where much of Australia’s liquefied natural gas and iron ore export industries are located.
Already, Port Hedland and Dampier, ports that account for a third of the global trade in iron ore, are to closed over the weekend ahead of an expected cyclone.