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Key Australian coking coal ports shut due to Cyclone Iris

Singapore — Key coking coal export ports along Australia's Queensland coast suspended operations Tuesday as the state braced for Tropical Cyclone Iris.

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North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation said the ports of Hay Point and Abbot Point were suspended Tuesday under the direction of the Regional Harbour Master until further notice.

The two ports are home to the Dalrymple Bay, Hay Point and Abbot Point coal terminals, all key coking coal export terminals.

The other two coal exporting ports in Queensland are Gladstone and Brisbane, with Gladstone also a key export terminal for coking coal.

A spokesman for Queensland's Department of Transport and Main Roads said operations were currently continuing as normal at Gladstone, although the port was on high alert.

Brisbane is much further south and unlikely to be impacted.

"Tropical Cyclone Iris is expected to continue moving slowly to the southeast, parallel to the Queensland coast, for the next two days while slowly intensifying," Australia's Bureau of Meteorology said in a 10 am update Tuesday.

"On Thursday the cyclone should slow down and begin to weaken. It may reverse direction and adopt a track to the northwest overnight Thursday or Friday. The cyclone is not expected to cross the Queensland coast in the short to medium term, but may approach the coast close enough to produce significant impacts," it added.

As a result of the port closures, metallurgical coal miner sources said rail lines leading to the ports have suspended operations.

Aurizon Rail Network, which operates key coal rail lines in Queensland, said in a statement: "Aurizon Operations is working with all three coal terminals to safely recommence services as soon as possible. Recommencement of berthing, outloading and inloading will occur when the weather improves."

Sources at metallurgical coal mines in Queensland said there was no damage to infrastructure heard to date.

"It's too early to call a big issue yet," said one miner source, adding the cyclone was currently offshore and had not affected production at his mine.

A source at another mine also said production had not been affected, but the mine was unable to rail coal as the Goonyella line was suspended.

US and Canadian coking coal miners may "already have their phones ringing," he added.

One mining source said Queensland was preparing for Cyclone Iris while still grappling with the impact of Cyclone Linda in March.

"The ground is already quite wet," the source said, adding it was "a bit early to say if it's going to be a problem," although there were already issues with vessel loadings.

One miner source said if he had spare positions, he would hold back offers as he could not be certain of delivery dates given the weather.

Cyclone Debbie that lashed Queensland on March 27 last year sent coking coal prices doubling to $304/mt Platts PLV FOB Australia on April 17, 2017. The marker was last placed at $196.50/mt PLV FOB Australia Monday.

Australia supplied 58% of global coking coal exports in 2017, according to estimates by Goldman Sachs. It estimated total global exports in the year at 295 million mt.

--Elizabeth low,
--Edwin Yeo,
--Yi Le Weng,
--Nathan Richardson,
--Edited by Wendy Wells,

(First published at 0437 GMT and updated at 0703 GMT to add details throughout)