Queensland Rail had stowed a train carrying copper, lead and zinc concentrate from Glencore’s operations in the Australian state on 31 January as a precautionary measure.
That was not sufficient to protect the 80-wagon Mount Isa train after historic rainfall of as much as 1.16 meters by February 7 near Townsville, where Glencore’s copper refinery servicing its Mount Isa Mines is located.
According to a press release from the transport authority access to the site is still limited and on some sections it is relying on drones to capture the damage:
“Early inspections indicate that a significant portion of the mineral concentrates have remained in the train’s wagons, but that 19 wagons carrying zinc concentrate and two carrying lead concentrate have sustained damage.”
Authorities issued a clean up notice to Queensland Rail, train operator Pacific National and Glencore on February 15. The media statement said that the concentrates “have low solubility and are therefore expected to have low mobility in the environment. However, flood water velocity is likely to have resulted in some product mobilisation.”
Queensland Rail said it expects to finish repairs on the Mount Isa line “earlier than the 6 – 12 months that has been suggested and reported.” A taskforce met in Townsville for the first time this week to start repairs on more than 300km of rail line including 16 bridges.
Queensland Rail believes repairs can be finished by late April or mid-May, but the section of the Mount Isa line may well take longer and and the option of a rail deviation is being explored.
Glencore operates 11 mines, three metals concentrators, two smelters and a copper refinery in Queensland. The company has over 7,500 employees in the state and has donated $1 million to flood relief efforts.
The Swiss giant’s Mount Isa complex produced 26,000 tonnes of lead and 278,000 tonnes of zinc last year, while the copper refinery in Townsville produced more than 206,000 tonnes of copper including from third parties.