Aurizon coal wagons. Photo: Aurizon

Aurizon prevails in Wiggins Island appeal case

The Queensland Court of Appeal has dismissed an appeal by a group of miners over charges imposed by Aurizon for upgrades of the Wiggins Island Coal Export Terminal at the Port of Gladstone.

The decision is the latest in a court battle that has been running since March 2016, when Aurizon challenged the validity of notices by the miners who sought to reduce how much they would have to pay for the upgrades.

In a statement to the ASX, Aurizon welcomed the court’s decision.

“Today’s decision by the Queensland Court of Appeal means that the customers’ notices are invalid and Wiggins Island Rail Project (WIRP) Fees are payable to Aurizon.”

The company said that no revenue has been accrued for the above regulatory fees since the project was completed in 2015 and the decision does not impact Aurizon’s regulated return for the project.

In a separate Expert Determination process, it was stated that the WIRP fee should be reduced, and Aurizon indicated it is looking at options for appealing that outcome.

Aurizon, which manages the central Queensland coal network in addition to its above rail operations, invested roughly $800 million in the WIRP. However, since completing the WIRP in 2015, coal prices have dropped significantly, leading to the miners seeking to reduce their costs.

With some of the original owners of the Wiggins Island export terminal going into administration, the cost for the remainder to access the port had increased.

Mount Isa, Queensland. Photo: Creative Commons

Mount Isa Line upgrades begin as more resources moved via rail

Work has begun on an upgrade of the Mount Isa rail line, which was significantly damaged in flooding caused by monsoons in 2019.

The $6 million upgrade will improve 320km of the line, beginning near Hughenden and finishing near Cloncurry. Works include bridge abutment and scour repairs in nearby drains and creek, stonework to improve embankments, and drainage and cleaning work as required.

The works to improve the line’s resilience are in addition to repairs that were undertaken in 2019 to get the line working again after heavy rains.

The Mount Isa rail line is used by the resource industry to export minerals from northern Queensland to ports along the coast. The Queensland government has been incentivising the use of freight to transport these commodities through an $80m incentive scheme, of which $20 million has been accessed so far, said Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey.

“Since we introduced the scheme, more than four billion gross tonne kilometres of eligible freight has moved along line to the Port of Townsville,” he said.

“This is an increase of more than one million in tonnage from the year prior to the scheme being introduced.”

Resources figures including Glencore’s Queensland Metals COO Matt O’Neill welcomed the scheme.

“The distance to transport products in North Queensland is significant and transportation makes up a large portion of the cost of delivery to our customers, both in the domestic and export markets,” he said.

“We are pleased to see this scheme encouraging a shift towards rail as a real alternative to road transport along the Mount Isa rail corridor.”

A focus of the project will be ensuring that the benefits of the upgrade are felt locally, said Member for Townsville Scott Stewart.

“About two thirds of the workers will stay in Julia Creek, while the rest will be accommodated in Richmond, and all the materials for the project will be sourced locally – providing a much needed injection for the community.”