Union calls for safety audit of Australian mining industry
A central Queensland mine is in the process of a major clean up after a massive storm flattened a workshop and a large shed - prompting calls from the mining union for a safety audit of all structures on mine sites.
Buildings at BHP’s Peak Downs mine were destroyed after a wild storm tore through the Bowen Basin on November 13. As a result of the damage, the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union says a rethink is needed on the way buildings and structures are rated for safety and wind speeds.
"The only shining light out of this was no-one was injured, which is great," says CFMEU’s Steve Smythe.
"Our safety reps were out there yesterday having a look around, but certainly there's going to have to be a rethink not just of Peak Downs but across the industry with storm season on the way,” he adds, pointing out that mining companies and their contractors have been erecting flimsy structures, akin to what someone would build in their backyard – but on a much larger scale.
"Companies and contractors have gone and put these in place as a stop-gap measure but, as with anything, they end up staying there as a full-time structure for trucks and people to work in and under," he says.
Smythe states that while mining companies make their own audits to ensure such structures were installed to an adequate standard of safety, the Mining Department should also carry out inspections to ensure workplace safety, and to distribute safety information to all mines.
"A couple of years ago we had dongas, or crib rooms, which turned over in storms at the Jelinbah Mine, which resulted in people being caught in the crib rooms," he points out, adding that, "People are aware of this and normally tie them down, but there needs to be a more concerted effort done to ensure they are secure and people will not be put at risk."
BHP says that a clean-up is underway and that its safety systems in place meant that people were prepared, which resulted in no one being injured and operations not being disrupted. It adds that operations on the Peak Downs mine are ramping back up.
The Peak Downs mine is a large open cut coking coal mine in Queensland, located 31 kilometres South-Southeast of the town of Moranbah.
It is one of seven mines in the Bowen Basin owned by the BHP Mitsubishi Alliance, Australia’s largest coal miner and exporter. It also owns and operates the Hay Point Coal Terminal near Mackay.
Copper, iron ore surge as Chinese investors unleash demand
The reopening of major industrial economies is sparking a surge across commodities markets from corn to lumber, with tin climbing above $30,000 a tonne for the first time since 2011 on Thursday.
In the wake of mounting evidence of inflation fuelled by higher raw materials prices, investors are also increasingly focused on when the U.S. Federal Reserve might start throttling back its emergency support.
Many banks say the rally has further to run, particularly for copper, which will benefit from rising investment in new energy sectors. Copper is at the highest in a decade, fueling bets it will rally further to take out the record set in February 2011. Steel demand is surging as economies chart a path back to growth just as the world’s biggest miners have been hampered by operational issues, tightening ore supply.
“The long-term prospects for metals prices are ‘too good’ and point to higher prices in the next few years,” said Commerzbank AG analyst Daniel Briesemann. “The decarbonization trends in many countries, which include switching to electric vehicles and expanding wind and solar power, are likely to generate additional demand for metals.”
Trading house Trafigura Group and several major Wall Street banks including Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Bank of America Corp. expect copper to extend gains.
Copper rose as much as 1.6% to $10,108.50 a ton on the London Metal Exchange before trading at $10,080 as of 4:07 p.m. in London.
Benchmark spot iron ore prices rose to a record, while futures in Singapore and China climbed.
The boom comes as China’s steelmakers keep output rates above 1 billion tons a year, despite a swath of production curbs aimed at reducing carbon emissions and reining in supply. Instead, those measures have boosted steel prices and profitability at mills, allowing them to better accommodate higher iron ore costs.
Spot iron ore with 62% content hit $201.15 a ton on Thursday, according to Mysteel. Futures in Singapore jumped as much as 5.1% to $196.40 a ton, the highest since contracts were launched in 2013. In Dalian, prices closed 8.8% higher.
Erik Hedborg, Principal Analyst, Steel at CRU Group commented: “Recent production cuts in Tangshan have boosted demand for higher-quality ore and prompted mills to build iron ore inventories as their margins are on the rise. Iron ore producers are enjoying exceptionally high margins as well, around two thirds of seaborne supply only require prices of $50 /dmt to break even.”
Still, some analysts including Commerzbank’s Briesemann expect a short-term correction as metals become detached from fundamentals. There’s also a risk that China could engage in policies that may cool demand for iron ore and copper.
The metals rally has boosted concerns about short-term Chinese demand. Some manufacturers and end-users have been slowing production or pushing back delivery times after costs surged, while weaker-than-expected domestic consumption has opened the arbitrage window for exports.
Tin climbed as much as 2% to $30,280 a ton on the LME, boosted by rising orders for the soldering metal. Tin is at the highest since May 2011, with a 48% gain this year making it the best performing metal on the LME.