The South Australian Government has begun reopening parts of the Stuart Highway for trucks during daylight hours, after floods cut off key mining areas of Prominent Hill and Coober Pedy.
A major emergency was declared by the State Government in late January following flooding and storm damage to critical road and rail routes between Adelaide, Perth and Darwin.
With Coober Pedy completely cut off by ground transport routes, the Australian Defence Force (ADF) was called to deliver urgent supplies to the airports of Coober Pedy and Prominent Hill.
OZ Minerals operates the Prominent Hill copper mine at four million tonnes per annum, with a mine life of 15 years.
Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Corey Wingard said works were underway to repair the damaged transport routes.
“Large sections of the state’s sealed and unsealed road network have been impacted, and we are working to prioritise roads for repair and re-opening,” Wingard said.
“Roads that support the transport of essential supplies, commodities and services to the community and industry will be fast-tracked for restoration.”
ADF Brigadier Graham Goodwin said his brigade was tasked with delivering six tonnes of essential supplies and food to vulnerable communities.
“The Royal Australian Air Force C-27J Spartans from No. 35 Squadron will transport food from Adelaide to the effected region which have been cut off after weeks of significant rainfall disrupted supply chains across the state,” Goodwin said.
“The first flight left on Monday January 31, to deliver critical food items and the ADF is ready to support the effected community.”
South Australian State Emergency Services’ deputy chief officer, Liz Connell, expressed her gratitude to the ADF for its help.
“I am very pleased to see our emergency food supplies reach Coober Pedy, and particularly thankful to the Australian Defence Force for their support,” Connell said.
“We have been working closely with the local far-north South Australian community and continue to monitor the environmental situation.”
The State Government stated that disaster assistance was available for counter disaster operations in 14 local government areas. These included Roxby Downs – the town specifically built to accommodate BHP’s Olympic Dam mine – and Whyalla.
The rainfall came in the wake of ex-Tropical Cyclone Tiffany which occurred on Australia’s north coast.
The Bureau of Meteorology stated that South Australia experienced its wettest January since 1984.