* BHP declares force majeure on Australian coal
* Coal prices surge
* Fourth miner to make declaration after cyclone hits
(Adds impact on coal prices, number of BHP mines)
SYDNEY, April 5 BHP Billiton BLT.L>,
the world's biggest exporter of coal used to make steel,
declared force majeure on Wednesday for coal deliveries from its
mines in Australia's Bowen Basin after a cyclone damaged railway
lines, disrupting delivery to ports.
BHP has interests in 11 coal mines in the Bowen Basin, with
nine operated as joint ventures with Japan's Mitsubishi Corp.
under the BMA name and two in partnership with Mitsui
, called BMC.
"BHP Billiton confirms that force majeure has been declared
for all BMA Coal and all BMC Coal products as a result of damage
caused by Cyclone Debbie to the network infrastructure of rail
track provider Aurizon," the company said in a statement emailed
Force majeure is a commercial term that means a buyer or
seller cannot fulfill their obligations because of outside
forces. It is typically invoked after natural disasters or
A critical mountain pass on the railway connecting
Australia's biggest coking coal mines to ports has been hit by
landslides and buckled tracks caused by the cyclone, leading to
The line's operator, Aurizon Holdings, said it
would take around five weeks to complete all repairs and
alternative routes were being considered.
"BHP Billiton continues to assess haulage options to manage
access from mine sites to ports and shipments to customers. We
continue to monitor and work through the impacts to production
and will provide updates over coming weeks and detail in the
The company is the fourth miner to declare force majeure in
Chinese coking coal futures jumped more than 7 percent on
Wednesday to a four-month high amid worries over tighter
supplies from Australia.
The spike in Chinese prices followed a 43 percent surge in
Singapore-listed futures of Australian premium coking coal over
the past two days.
(Reporting by Tom Westbrook and James Regan; Editing by Richard