Too early to assess damage, but losses unlikely to match 2011 deluge

MINES and farms close to the Queensland coast were hardest hit by ex-tropical cyclone Oswald. Cattle and cane growers south of Mackay are still assessing stock losses and damage to crops.

MINES and farms close to the Queensland coast were hardest hit by ex-tropical cyclone Oswald. Cattle and cane growers south of Mackay are still assessing stock losses and damage to crops.

Rabobank's Rockhampton-based state manager, Brad James, said while Oswald had brought more rainfall in certain areas than cyclone Yasi two years ago, the impact was mainly confined to coastal regions this time and rainfall inland was beneficial.

Mr James said there would be stock losses and damage to infrastructure, particularly fencing, on beef properties from Mackay to Rockhampton, but it was too early to quantify the damage.

"Cattle can go missing in floods but turn up later - they float downstream - and it's often inaccurate to give an early estimate," he said.

For cultivators, moving south to Bundaberg, Mr James said the storm had been "quite destructive" with early reports of significant losses for citrus orchards and tree crops on the Burnett River floodplain. Cotton growers inland were "thankfully" spared this year after incurring significant damage in 2011, Mr James said.

The chief executive of Canegrowers, Steve Greenwood, said flooding rains had ravaged pockets of land, and major damage would be sustained by some growers, particularly in the Bundaberg, Maryborough and Childers areas. Mr Greenwood said the crop in those areas would have been about 2.5 million tonnes and was reasonably well established after the November harvest. But with rivers still rising, it was too early to determine the full extent of the damage.

The Queensland Resources Council said the export coal industry could take several weeks to resume full production but despite the rainfall mines were by and large resuming normal operations. The chief executive of the council, Michael Roche, said: "At this stage, it does not appear as though the coal industry has suffered as much damage as it did in the 2010-11 floods, but it is also clear that the legacy water issue from that time has not been eased because of the extreme rainfall recorded over recent days."

There were reports of significant damage to the Blackwater and Moura rail systems that carry coal from the southern and central Bowen Basin to the Port of Gladstone, where operations have also been hampered by about 800 millimetres of rain.

Yancoal closed two of its Queensland coalmines. At the Middlemount open cut mine, jointly owned with Peabody Energy, a levee was breached and water flowed into the pit. Production at Middlemount was likely to be affected for at least three weeks, although its Yarrabee mine, closed on the weekend, would return to normal this week.

Aurizon, formerly QR National, said the Moura and Blackwater systems would remain closed for seven to 10 days and it could not fully assess some locations because the railway line was still under water. Queensland Rail's West Moreton corridor, west of Brisbane, on which Aurizon runs coal trains, had also been affected by line closures.

A spokesperson for Gladstone Ports Corporation said ship loading had resumed at the RG Tanna coal terminal, with one ship loader operational. Rail unloading was continuing at the terminal, with the Barney Point coal terminal set to resume unloading.

All coal ports were open to shipping.

The state's coal seam gas-LNG operations reported minor disruptions to operation and construction activity, the Queensland Resources Council said..

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