Runaway mining train travels 90 kilometres without driver in Australia

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BHP does not believe its stockpiles of iron ore at Port Hedland, in Western Australia's Pilbara region, will be sufficient to meets its contracts with customers following the deliberate derailment of an out-of-control train.

With no one at the controls, the 3km long runaway train travelled for nearly an hour, at speeds of up to 110km/h, before it crashed about 210km south of Port Headland.

"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.

One of BHP's customers in China, a steel producer, has, however, not yet received any notice from the miner.

BHP's stockpiles at Port Hedland is not expected to be sufficient to cover the entire period of interruption, according to the company.

That's when things went south, according to the safety bureau: "While the driver was outside of the locomotive, the train commenced to runaway".

There were no injuries in the derailment, but the train was extensively damaged.

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.

The derailment came after the train ran away at high speed for almost 100 km (62 miles) when the driver left the cabin for an inspection.

The mining company also told The West Australian it is working with authorirites to investigate the situation.

"However, we are working with the appropriate authorities and our focus remains on the safe recovery of our operations". "We can not speculate on the outcome of the investigation", BHP said.

BHP's mine sites continue to operate and it expects a partial resumption of rail operations in about a week.

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

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