Runaway mining train in Australia travels 90km without driver


MELBOURNE, Nov 7 (Reuters) - Mining giant BHP Billiton expects some interruption to its Australian iron ore exports after a almost 3-km-long train loaded with the commodity was forcibly derailed this week after running away en route to a key shipping hub.

It was reported that the train was travelling at an average speed of more than 100 km/h on its solo journey.

Despite the closure of its rail network, BHP's iron ore mines remain open and operating.

Mining giant BHP, which owns the four-locomotive train, made a decision to derail before it reached the town of Port Hedland near its Western Australia Pilbara site, and flicked the points.

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.

"We have a long-term contract with BHP and we haven't received a notification so far", said an official at the mill in southern China who declined to be named as he was not authorised to speak to media.

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BHP will rely on its stockpile reserves at Port Headland to maintain operations at the export hub, it said, without commenting on any potential impact to shipments.

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

The miner suspended all of its rail operations on Monday after it derailed the iron ore train, damaging 1.5 kilometres of track and crushing numerous 268 fully-laden wagons in the process. While the driver was outside the train, it took off with no one on board.

"We are working with the appropriate authorities to investigate the situation", a BHP spokeswoman said. "We can not speculate on the outcome of the investigation", BHP said.

BHP's WA rail operations are expected to resume in about a week.

Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said the National Rail Safety Regulator had been informed and was investigating.