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Returning coal operations to full production following the Queensland floods is taking longer than expected and could stretch well into 2012, according to economists.
The slow recovery comes as bad news for Queensland miners as they race to rebuild before the onset of another tropical storm season, which could delay recovery efforts further.
July trade data yesterday showed Australian coal exports fell 12 per cent, or $535 million, compared with June.
The fall prompted economists to question whether the coal industry would be able to deliver a boost to economic growth in the second half of the year.
ANZ economist Andrew McManus told the Australian the recovery of QLD coal miners was slow and could be hampered further by the next storm season.
“On current trends the industry may only be at 85 per cent production by the time the storm season hits,” he said.
“This could delay the return to full output until closer to mid-year.”
“The wet season always does bring down capacity each year. The fact that it has taken so long to get back to reasonable production levels, it is going to hurt them a bit.”
Deutsche Bank Australia chief economist Adam Boyton said the fall in coal export data was driven by weaker exports of coking coal to the key Asian markets of India, South Korea, and Japan.
He said Deutsche Bank would be watching the figures closely to check if the slowing world economy was impacting Australian exports.
“With the evolution in the global economy over the course of 2011 weaker than expected, we will be watching this element of the data closely over coming months to gauge just what impact a softer global environment may be having on both the prices and volumes of Australian exports,” he said.