Storm impacts Queensland coal supply

Heavy rains are once again threatening to disrupt Queensland’s coal industry.

Tracking down the eastern Seaboard is the intense low weather system of ex-tropical cyclone Oswald, bringing with it torrential rain and damaging winds.

However the impact is expected to be less severe than the floods of 2011 which saw the state miss its annual coal export target by some 40 million tonnes.

Anglo-American has advised some of its Queensland mines are shut and Aurizon [formerly QR National] said parts of its Central Queensland Coal Network were closed, SMH reported.

Central Queensland has experienced ''significant rainfall over the past few days and production at some of our operations has been impacted by flooding and temporary road and transportation access issues,” a spokeswoman for Anglo's metallurgical coal division said.

But improving weather conditions has already allowed Anglo to resume work in some areas.

Mining juggernauts BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto have said the recent weather’s impact on production would be reported on in quarterly updates.

''We are obviously monitoring the weather impacts vigilantly and ensuring the safety of our people as a first priority,'' a BHP spokesman said.

Xstrata told Bloomberg its Queensland Coal operations were not significantly affected.

Queensland freight operator Aurizon said the the Newlands and Goonyella systems were now operating as norma, following interruptions to services late last week.

But the Blackwater and Moura systems, located further south, remained closed as damage was assessed.

Aurizon's coal operations on the West Moreton corridor were also affected by the closure of Queensland Rail corridors.

A spokeswoman said the company is currently working with customers "to minimise the impacts of heavy rain which has now moved south''.

On Saturday both the Port of Gladstone and Hay Point suspended ship loading as a result of the wild weather.

Hay Point is the world’s biggest export terminal for metallurgical coal.

The Gladstone port was subsequently reopened on Sunday morning when weather conditions improved.

Coal prices soared after the state’s 2011 floods and analysts believe the latest disruptions to coal supply could help put a floor under prices.

In 2011 hard coking coal peaked above $US330 a tone but have significantly dropped since, almost halving in 2012.

According to IHS McCloskey's Bruce Jacques coal prices in the past month have slightly recovered.

Before the storms the spot price was approaching $US170 ($A163) a tonne, he said, and it is likely the rains would ''edge that up a bit further''.

Last night the storm continued to track south into New South Wales.

Newcastle Port told Bloomberg five coal ships had to move their anchorages further out to sea as a precaution, but the port remained in operation.

Last week saw four BHP Mitsubishi Alliance mines in the Fitzroy River basin in Central Queensland carry out controlled water releases.

The release of water is part of a Queensland state government pilot program.

Queensland Greens member Andrew Jeremijenko said on Monday the practice would only make the central Queensland flood crisis worse.

''Not only will they contribute to flooding but it will affect water supply that may have already been compromised by the floods,'' Jeremijenko said.

Queensland Environment Minister Andrew Powell said the water releases from mines was merely a continuation of similar practices under previous governments.

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