La Niña to bring more heavy rain to mining areas

Rio Tinto

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) has forecast the La Niña weather pattern will continue affecting the north and east of Australia until mid-autumn, having already caused disruptions to the mining sector.

La Niña increases the chance of tropical cyclones and above-average rainfall across Australia during summer and, to a lesser degree, autumn.

Although the weather pattern has peaked in strength, the increased rainfall is linked to La Niña and to a strengthening of the Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO) over the Indian Ocean in the past week.

The BoM expects the MJO to move eastwards into the Australian maritime continent over the next week, which traditionally increases rainfall and cloudiness across north Australia.

Heavy rain in New South Wales and Queensland in November caused localised flooding in coal fields in the Hunter and Gunnedah basins, which impacted mining operations and cut access to some mines.

The Bowen Basin region of Queensland was also not exempt from the above-average rainfall, with Coronado Global Resources’ saleable production down 10 per cent in the December quarter.

La Niña continuing through to April increases the potential for disruptions to the mining sector.

Earlier this month, key South Australian mining areas of Prominent Hill and Coober Pedy were cut off by ground transport routes, after floods damaged critical road and rail routes between Adelaide, Perth and Darwin.

A major emergency was declared by the SA Government in late January, due to the floods, with the Australian Defence Force delivering urgent supplies to the airports of Coober Pedy and Prominent Hill.

The BoM’s tropical cyclone outlook for 2021-22 predicted an above-average cyclone season that the north-western region, which encompasses the upper reaches of Western Australia and the mining-rich Pilbara region within that, was expected to experience this season.

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