In the devastating aftermath of Tropical Cyclones Marcia and Lam, Queensland and the Northern Territory are still struggling to deal with the trail of destruction left behind.
The category 5 storms hit the coast during February 2015, causing destruction to hundreds of properties and combined damages upwards of $850million AUD.
The Central Queensland coal mining sector was fortunately left moderately unscathed, with the Queensland Resources Council (QRC) reporting ‘no major damage to critical coal infrastructure’. While rail and port operations were temporarily suspended during the peak wind periods, causing flow-on disruptions, minimal damage was caused and production at mine sites was able to continue.
“Broadly the picture is one where the coal sector has dodged a bullet”, stated Michael Roche, QRC Chief Executive.
While the Queensland resource sector was fortunate in this instance, the severity of what ‘could-have-been’ has further highlighted the importance of a strong contingency plan at all regional mine sites. Forgetting the potential physical damage of severe weather conditions, tropical cyclones can have an enormous impact on production, often forcing sites to suspend operation completely and send personnel home.
A 2012 study conducted on ‘The Estimated Cost of Tropical Cyclone Impacts in Western Australia’ is a good indication for the rest of the country. A joint study between the West Australian Government and Bureau of Meteorology indicated that the mining and resources sector is highly affected by severe weather events through flooding, wind damage and road closures, as well as evacuations and cessation of activity. The combined costs for a mining project can be considerable.
Given the large scale of the mining sector, and its significant contribution to the overall state economy, it is therefore proposed that the resulting impact to the industry is the major economic threat of tropical cyclones to the state.
MineARC’s new StormSAFE Shelter, designed for extreme weather conditions, is a perfect solution to the impact of downtime during cyclone season. In close collaboration with Australian iron ore company, Atlas Iron, MineARC has developed two modular, fully portable cyclone shelters, built to withstand wind speeds in excess of 300km/hr.
For their operation in the Northern Pilbara region, prone to extreme weather conditions and cyclones, Atlas Iron recognised the advantage of providing on-site storm shelters at their largest Port Hedland facilities. Each chamber is large enough to house 72 people safely during extreme weather, eliminating the requirement for Atlas Iron to send staff to Perth during an emergency, and allowing them to continue production and processing as normal all the way up to a ‘blue’ alert.
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Extreme Weather Shelter for Australian Outback "A disaster and extreme weather shelter were designed for Australian iron ore company Atlas Iron. This very different type of refuge chamber; MineARC’s first StormSAFE cyclone shelter. For their operation in the Northern Pilbara region, an area prone to extreme wind conditions and tropical cyclones, Atlas recognised the advantage of providing on-site storm shelters at their largest Port Hedland facilities." Continue reading.
Maddison, M., “Tropical Cyclone Marcia: Coal industry weathers category five storm says Queensland Resources Council”, ABC News 24 Feb. 2015. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-02-24/qld-coal-industry-dodged-a-bullet-… (26 Feb. 2015)
McBride, John. “The Estimated Cost of Tropical Cyclone Impacts in Western Australia.” Bureau of Meteorology. 2012