Runaway Train Forces BHP to Halt West Australia Rail Operations

Mae Love
November 9, 2018

Australia's Transport Safety Bureau said that a probe into the incident was underway on Monday.

"There was no hesitation in derailing that train because it posed a safety risk down the track", Port Hedland Mayor Camillo Blanco said.

BHP was forced to derail a loaded iron ore train on Monday morning after it travelled 92km without a driver.

Global miner BHP Billiton BHP.AX BLT.L expects its operations in western Australia to take around a week to recover after a almost 3-km long train loaded with iron ore enroute to the coast for export was forcibly derailed on Monday.

It was deliberately derailed by a company control center in Perth, according to ATSB, which reported that it expects to complete this investigation in the second quarter of 2019. It averaged about 68 miles per hour and traveled for some 50 minutes before it was derailed, according to Australia's ABC.

"Had it been closer to a built up area another train coming from another area, so many possibilities that are dangers and hazard I'm just glad it happened where it did", the CFMEU's Greg Busson said.

"We are working with the appropriate authorities to investigate the situation".

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Western Australia's premier, Mark McGowan, told ABC that it was clear "extraordinary measures" had been necessary.

The interruption to the train line could be particularly costly for the mining company - given that it's the main way to deliver ore from its Pilbara mines to Port Hedland.

It remains unclear exactly what caused the train to take off on its own and why the driver couldn't get back on before it built up speed. "There would have been a procedure in place to make sure the train didn't move off".

A Perth remote control centre 1,500km away carried out the derailment at 5.30am.

Analysts think iron ore prices could see a short-term bump as a result of this derailment, according to the news service.

The company earlier this week warned its stockpiles of iron ore - a key steelmaking ingredient - were insufficient to cover the anticipated period of disruption, and BHP would need to liaise with its customers on its contractual commitments.

Port Hedland is the world's largest iron ore exporting terminal, used by BHP as well as other miners.

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