Phosphate Hill to potentially take $120m hit as QLD rail repairs advance

Queensland Rail has created a taskforce to expedite repairs to over 200 kilometres of track on the Mount Isa line affected by the recent floods in the state.

The government-owned operator expects the repairs to be finalised as soon as the end of April, earlier than the originally anticipated six to 12 months.

“Our coordinated recovery crew will allow us to condense the Mount Isa Line’s repair time down to eight to 12 weeks, subject to favourable weather and construction conditions,” Queensland Rail chief executive officer Nick Easy said.

“That would have us reopening the line between late April and mid-May 2019.”

The line is an important transport link to the Port of Townsville for several local lead and zinc operations, including MMG, South32 and Glencore.

All three companies have donated to Queensland flood appeals in the past month, including a $250,000 donation from MMG and $1 million each from South32 and Glencore.

Incitec Pivot, which operates the Phosphate Hill mine and ore processing plant around 1000 kilometres from Townsville, also contributed $100,000 to the relief effort.

On February 7, a Pacific National train carrying zinc, lead and copper anode was derailed by flood waters at Nelia, causing product to spill into the water. The train, which consisted of one locomotive and 80 wagons, had already been stuck on the track since January 31.

“Pacific National is finalising its recovery plans for the train, wagons and products, with support from Queensland Rail and Glencore,” Easy said.

“The option of a rail deviation around the Nelia site will be explored by the taskforce, should Pacific National’s recovery take longer than repairs to the Mount Isa Line.”

Incitec Pivot is the latest company to announce the negative effects of the rail closure. The company stated this morning that it expected the outage to contribute to between $100–120 million in lost earnings before interest and tax at Phosphate Hill.

The company also said it had attempted to partially offset the effects of the rail closure through limited road deliveries of its phosphate fertiliser product.

The Queensland Rail taskforce met for the first time in Townsville yesterday. Around 400 employees and contractors will be mobilised to meet the repair target.

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