QLD miners wary of wild weather

Ex-Tropical Cyclone Imogen moves over North Queensland. Image: Bureau of Meteorology.

The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) has warned North Queensland mining companies to expect intense rainfall and potential life-threatening flash flooding as ex-Tropical Cyclone Imogen crosses the state.

Queensland is facing wild weather brought about by the cyclone, which BOM downgraded to a tropical low just after 3pm Queensland time Monday.

However, a severe weather warning remained in place at 5am Queensland time on Tuesday, with rainfall expected to exceed 150-200 millimetres within a six-hour period, with the potential to total more than 300 millimetres around the coast and ranges.

Rio Tinto’s Weipa bauxite operation in Far North Queensland and Glencore’s Mt Isa Mines copper-zinc sites and Ernest Henry copper-gold operations are among the mines bracing for high rainfall activity.

BOM recorded the ex-tropical cyclone 60-kilometres east-northeast of Georgetown and anticipates it to track east-southeast towards the North Tropical Coast, Tablelands and Herbert and Lower Burdekin districts on Tuesday.

The tropical low is then expected to move inland from the coast on Wednesday.

“A trough extends from ex-Imogen eastward through the North Tropical Coast and Tablelands to the south of Innisfail and is forecast to slowly move southward during Tuesday,” BOM stated.

“The heaviest rainfall is currently occurring on the eastern flank of the low into the middle and lower parts of the Herbert River Valley.

“Damaging to locally destructive winds are possible with thunderstorms about coastal areas from Ingham to Ayr.”

“Periods of localised intense rainfall leading to life threatening flash flooding with six hourly totals of 300 millimetres about the coast and ranges in the warning area are also possible.”

The Queensland Mines Inspectorate has issued a bulletin on managing the risks of the 2020-21 storm season, which is anticipated to be particularly troublesome due to a La Niña weather pattern.

It has urged mining companies to check their emergency management plan (EMP) and communication platforms to ensure teams are prepared before weather events occur.

“Having strategies in place to help cope with storms should make it easier for your site to minimise losses, maintain business continuity and recovery quickly,” the Queensland Mines Inspectorate stated.

“Getting your site ready for a storm includes developing an EMP, training staff in first aid and evacuation procedures.

“Before each storm season commences, develop a seasonal risk assessment based on the specific hazards that might be present on site by visually inspecting the mine or site, including drainage structures, using weather modelling and information from the Australian BOM, reviewing water management strategy, inspecting buildings and using a site-specific preparing for a storm checklist.”

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