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Rio Tinto lifts force majeure on Australia Hail Creek coking coal mine

Rio Tinto Coal Australia has rescinded the force majeure declaration onits Hail Creek coking coal mine, the last one remaining on its Queenslandcoal mining operations that were shut after December's heavy rainfall andflooding in the Bowen Basin coal field.

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"Force majeure was lifted from the last of Rio Tinto Coal Australia'sfour operations, Hail Creek mine, on Thursday," said a spokesman for RTCA inAustralia in an emailed statement on Friday.

Hail Creek mine is located 90 km southwest of Mackay in centralQueensland and has a production of 8 million mt/year of hard coking coalwhich is supplied to steel mill customers in Asia and Europe.

The mine is operated by RTCA and is owned by a joint venture comprisingRTCA (82%), Nippon Steel (8%), Marubeni Coal (6.6%) and Sumisho Coal (3.3%),according to the company's website.

"All of Rio Tinto Coal Australia's mines in central Queensland have nowlifted the force majeure from sales contracts declared in late December 2010as a result of severe weather events," the RTCA spokesman said.

Force majeure declarations were imposed on coal shipments from Rio TintoCoal Australia's Blair Athol, Kestrel and Clermont coal mines on December 24,2010 and the declarations were lifted for these three mines on February 18,February 21 and March 9, respectively.

The Blair Athol mine produces 12 million mt/year of export thermal coalfor customers in Asia, while the Kestrel mine is an underground coking andthermal coal operation producing 4.2 million mt/year.

Clermont, opened in 2010, is the company's eventual replacement for BlairAthol which is ramping up to a production of 12 million mt/year of thermalcoal.

The company announced in a December 29 statement that it had invokedforce majeure clauses in its supply contracts to customers for its fourQueensland coal mines "as a result of severe monsoon rain in central andnorthern Queensland."

Meanwhile, coal production at RTCA's Clermont mine was halted overnightThursday following a workplace accident that is being investigated.

"Rio Tinto Coal Australia is saddened to advise that a worker at Clermontmine in central Queensland died yesterday afternoon. Operations are expectedto gradually resume this morning [Friday]," the company spokesman said in astatement.

--Mike Cooper, michael_cooper@platts.com