AusRAIL, Market Sectors

Miners investing as Queensland missing link is lined up

<p>Progress in attempts to complete a 207-km rail link in Queensland has triggered renewed investment in coal exploration of the surrounding Surat Basin.</p> <p>Xstrata Coal will spend $20m studying its large mining tenement in the coal-rich region as it looks to have its coal mining operations online in time for improvements to rail and port infrastructure.</p> <p>Xstrata is part of a consortium of mining and transport companies that is pressing ahead with plans to build the so-called Southern Missing Link between Wandoan and Moura, about 450 km northwest of Brisbane. </p> <p>The line would form part of a long-awaited link between Toowoomba and the port of Gladstone, allowing coal to be diverted north for export. </p> <p>Plans for the $1.8bn Wiggins Island Coal Terminal include the possibility of adding another 70m tonnes of coal capacity to the port of Gladstone’s present 40m tonnes each year. </p> <p>Eight coal mines in the Surat Basin are expected to use the new line, known as the Dawson Valley Railway. </p> <p>Xstrata and other miners are expected to begin production in time for the completion of the new rail line by about 2011. </p> <p>The $1bn project is likely to be largely market-driven, with the only government funding and involvement in the consortium coming from the state-owned Queensland Rail (QR).</p> <p>The line will initially handle about 18m tonnes of coal each year but could reach 40m tonnes by the time the new port developments are completed.</p> <p>Xstrata owns the bulk of the Surat Basin’s reserves after a $4.9bn buyout of MIM Holdings in 2003.</p> <p>The mining company could need about $1bn to begin production, with about $500m needed for a washing plant and handling facilities.</p> <br />