Mining giant BHP Billiton was forced to deliberately derail a 268-car freight train, loaded with iron ore, after it had traveled an alarming 92km across Western Australia with no one on board.
The driver alighted to inspect one of the wagons at approximately 4am on Monday when the train, reportedly consisting of four locomotives and 268 wagons, took off for Port Hedland before he could get back on board, the Western Australian reports.
It managed to travel 92km without anyone at the helm before BHP was forced to take drastic action and intentionally derail the train at a crossing located roughly 120km from Port Hedland in Western Australia.
The resource giant has suspended all train operations in the Pilbara region while an investigation is underway.
“A Western Australia iron ore train has been derailed near Turner on route to Port Hedland this morning. No one has been injured. We are working with the appropriate authorities to investigate the situation,” a BHP spokesperson said, as quoted by the Financial Times.
“Based on the 120km distance from Port Hedland, it would appear that the great majority of BHP’s Pilbara production would be impacted. If there is significant track damage it could be that train loadings and speeds could be constrained post repairs and restarting of shipments,” Edward Sterck, an analyst at BMO Capital Markets, told the Financial Times.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau has sent two investigators to determine if any rail safety protocols were breached in the incident.
Iron ore extraction is a major industry for BHP Billiton, with the company exporting 69 million tons from Port Hedland in the quarter ending in September, via its four processing hubs and five mines connected by a system of 1,000km of railway lines.
Iron ore alone is responsible for almost 40 percent of BHP’s earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITA).
The company has faced multiple derailments in the region in recent years, in both 2017 and 2015, when an incident was caused by a broken rail.