(Adds source quotes, context)
By Tom Westbrook and Jonathan Barrett
SYDNEY, April 5 The reopening of Aurizon
Holdings Ltd's Blackwater rail line, a key link between coking
coal mines and export ports in cyclone-hit northeast Australia,
will be delayed after suffering more water damage than expected,
according to a source.
The Blackwater line was scheduled to re-open later this week
and start replenishing global coking coal supplies after Cyclone
Debbie hit the state of Queensland and disrupted haulage
operations. The system transported more than 60 million tonnes
of coal last year and services mines operated by BHP Billiton
, Glencore PLC and Sojitz Corp, among
However, a mining company employee with operations on
Aurizon's Blackwater line told Reuters that floodwaters
were "running harder than predicted".
"Our understanding is the reopening of the rail line ... is
likely to be early next week at best," said the source, who
Aurizon did not immediately respond to questions from
Queensland accounts for more than 50 percent of global
seaborne coking coal supplies. The export disruptions there have
led to huge price rises in the steel-making material and opened
the door for rivals to cash in.
Coking coal futures on the Dalian Commodity
Exchange, which was closed on Monday and Tuesday for a public
holiday, jumped over 7 percent early on Wednesday to $197.80 per
tonne, the highest level since December 2016.
China is the world's biggest importer of coking coal while
Australia is the world's top exporter.
Blackwater is the second-busiest line servicing the
Queensland coking coal industry and is the first scheduled to be
brought back into operation.
The neighbouring Goonyella line is the worst affected, with
landslides damaging tracks at a critical mountain
Cyclone Debbie, which struck last week as a category four
storm, one rung below the most damaging category five, has left
a disaster zone stretching 1,000 km (600 miles) in Queensland,
with subsequent flooding claiming at least six lives.
(Reporting by Tom Westbrook and Jonathan Barrett in SYDNEY.;
Editing by Christian Schmollinger)