SOUTH 32’s Australian manganese operations at the Northern Territory’s Groote Eylandt are unlikely to resume in full until the third quarter of next year, following damage caused by Tropical Cyclone Megan in mid-March.

In its quarterly update to the ASX, South 32 reported Australia Manganese saleable production decreased by 13% (or 352kwmt) to 2,324kwmt in the nine months ended March 2024 due to the severe impact of the cyclone, which dumped record rainfall of 681mm and brought the second strongest wind gusts in the past 20 years.

“The intense weather system resulted in widespread flooding across Groote Eylandt and significant damage to critical infrastructure, including the wharf and port infrastructure and a haulage road bridge that connects the northern pits of the Western Leases mining area and the processing plant,” the company said.

The wharf and shiploader were struck by the Cypriot-flag, 55,666 DWT bulker Anikitos which was alongside, loading, when the storm hit. The ship was unable to depart until 31 March, when it sailed for Bahudopi, Indonesia.

South 32 said the operational recovery has focused on re-establishing critical services and dewatering targeted mining pits. Engineering studies are underway on the wharf and haulage road bridge infrastructure restoration. These studies will inform the final schedule and capital costs.

“Based on our preliminary schedule estimate, we expect to recommence wharf operations and export sales in Q3 FY25. Alternative shipping options are being evaluated to mitigate the impact of the wharf outage. These options may establish partial ore export capability in advance of the wharf restoration.

“Further detail and anticipated capital costs will be provided once the recovery plans are sufficiently progressed.

Guidance for Australia Manganese remains withdrawn.”

The company said Australia Manganese maintains property damage and business interruption insurance: “We are working with our insurers to assess the impact of Tropical Cyclone Megan and expected insurance recoveries.”