CYCLONE DEBBIE FORCES MINE, RAIL AND PORT CLOSURES AS IT WREAKS HAVOC IN QUEENSLAND

CYCLONE DEBBIE FORCES MINE, RAIL AND PORT CLOSURES AS IT WREAKS HAVOC IN QUEENSLAND

COAL and gold mines in north and central Queensland are being seriously impacted as ex-Cyclone Debbie moves inland, dumping heavy rain as a tropical low after making landfall on Tuesday as a Category 4 system.

The massive storm system is now moving slowly south-west after making landfall as an intense cyclone between Airlie Beach and Bowen, battering the coast and inland areas with hurricane-force winds and torrential rain.

The Queensland Government has closed ports between Townsville and Abbot Point, one of the most important coal exporting corridors. Rail and shipping are being seriously affected.

Brisbane-based rail and freight operator Aurizon (ASX: AZJ) said it has closed all its facilities from Mackay to Townsville so employees can return home safely.

"Following port closures, the unloading of coal trains has ceased at the Abbot Point Coal Terminal near Bowen, and the Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal and Hay Point Coal Terminal, south of Mackay," an Aurizon spokesperson says.

"Coal trains in the Goonyella and Newlands systems have been stowed in preparation for the cyclone. Coal train services in the Blackwater and Moura Coal systems into the Port of Gladstone continue to operate.

"Aurizon is working with Queensland Rail as the infrastructure owner of the North Coast Line in respect to the closure of the network."

Aurizon says if there are changes to full year guidance because of Cyclone Debbie, the market will be notified.

Swiss multi-national Glencore suspended work at its two coal mines in Collinsville and Newlands, but the company says the halt will not affect its full year production forecasts.

Market analyst with optionsExpress, Be Le Brun, says it is too early to tell what impact the massive storm system will have on the miners and insurance companies like Suncorp (ASX: SUN).

"We're still trying to assess the impact of this cyclone and to be honest it could be days or weeks before we really know," Le Brun told Sky News Australia.

"Suncorp was on the front foot yesterday saying they have cover for this major event but we'll have to wait and see if that's the case," he says.

Cyclone Debbie also has the potential to wipe out farming crops worth up to $1 billion which could devastate regional communities and result in massive price rises for some fruit and vegetables.

The area between Townsville and Mackay produces most of Australia's winter crop including tomatoes, capsicum, pumpkin, cucumber and beans along with sugar cane, pineapple, rock melon and lychees.

Their combined harvest last year was valued at $850 million.

Business News Australia

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