Published: Fri, November 09, 2018
Markets | By Otis Pena

Runaway mining train travels 90 kms sans driver

Runaway mining train travels 90 kms sans driver

The driver of the BHP-operated train stepped out of the locomotive early on Monday to inspect an issue with one of its 268 wagons and it took off without him.

BHP Billiton has suspended all iron ore rail operations in Western Australia after a runaway freight train with no one on board travelled 92km before it had to be deliberately derailed.

"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.

"No one has been injured".

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.

Shaw and Partners analyst Peter O'Connor said at a run-rate of 270-280 million tonnes per annum, BHP's Pilbara operations represented around 18% of the global seaborne iron ore trade.

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The Australian Transport Safety Bureau said it was investigating the incident.

BHP's shares closed 0.48 percent lower to Aus$33.39 (US$24.18) in Sydney Wednesday as reports in Britain said the Anglo-Australian firm was facing a £5 billion (US$6.5 billion) lawsuit over the deadly Samarco dam failure in Brazil in 2015.

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.

It hurtled along the company's Newman to Port Hedland line in the remote Pilbara region for about 50 minutes until it was deliberately derailed at a set of points near Turner, about 120km south of the port town. "Recovery operations are underway", BHP said in a statement on Wednesday. "We can not speculate on the outcome of the investigation", BHP said.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau, the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator and BHP are investigating.

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