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June 11 (Reuters) - Companies in the key mining region of Western Australia state have reported production outages after an explosion at the Varanus island offshore gas plant operated by Apache Corp (APA.N) on June 3.
Western Australia is home to 1,030 operating mine sites, producing over 50 different minerals.
Apache estimates it will be two months or more before it will be able to resume partial gas supplies and longer until operations return to normal.
Following is a summary of current operating conditions among the state’s key minerals producers.
— Rio Tinto Ltd/Plc (RIO.AX)(RIO.L) and BHP Billiton Ltd/Plc (BHP.AX)BLT.L have managed to switch to diesel or other gas supplies to so far maintain production at pre-explosion levels. Fortescue Metals Group Ltd (FMG.AX) said it was not affected because it does not buy gas from Apache.
BHP production in Australia (year to June 30, 2007): 99.4 million tonnes.
Rio production (year to Dec. 31, 2007): 135.2 million tonnes.
— Oxiana Resources Ltd OXR.AX was forced to buy electricity in spot markets to restore production to normal levels at its Golden Grove mine. Last year’s production: 132,000 tonnes of zinc, 15,000 tonnes of copper and 8,000 tonnes of lead.
— Alcoa Australia, 60 percent owned by U.S.-based Alcoa Inc (AA.N) and 40 percent by Alumina Ltd (AWC.AX) on June 10 declared force majeure on alumina deliveries. The joint venture runs three alumina plants: Kwinana, Pinjara and Wagerup with aggregate capacity of 8.7 tonnes a year.
— BHP Billiton Ltd/Plc (BHP.AX)BLT.L, which produces nearly 3 million tonnes of alumina from its Worsley refinery predicts little impact on earnings. NICKEL
— BHP Billiton’s 100,000-110,000 tonnes per year Kalgoorlie nickel-in-matte smelter, its 65,000-tpa Kwinana nickel metal refinery and the Ravensthorpe nickel mine operating normally due to back-up gas supplies and access to diesel fuel.
— Minara Resources Ltd MRE.AX cuts production guidance to between 31,000 and 34,000 tonnes of nickel in 2008 from a previous 31,000 to 35,000 tonnes as it turns to alternative gas suppliers.
— Newcrest Mining Ltd (NCM.AX) forecasts will lose 30,000 ounces of gold production in year to June 30, 2008.
Total Western Australian production of major minerals in 2006 (in metric tonnes, unless otherwise designated)
Alumina 11.6 (million)
Gold (kg) 163,650
Iron ore exports 245 (million)
Manganese ore 906,677
Sources: Reuters, Western Australian Department of Industry and Resources, Macquarie Research. (Reporting by James Regan)