Australian fires take their toll on agriculture and mining
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The massive bushfires sweeping across Australia have already devastated more than 6 million hectares of land, killing at least 24 people and millions, possible billions, of wild animals.
And with high temperatures and winds set to rise, the bushfires are expected to continue for some time to come.
This is taking its toll on a number of agricultural and mining companies.
Over on Kangaroo Island, fires have not only devastated much of the Flinders Chase National Park it has also hit Australia’s only listed timber company Kangaroo Island Plantations (ASX:KPT).
The company told the market on the first day of trading this decade that a further 971 hectares of its plantations, or 7 per cent of its landholding, had been lost, taking the total fire-damaged land up to 1,862 hectares.
Further up north, winemaker Australian Vintage (ASX:AVG) said on Wednesday that its 30-hectare Charleston vineyard in the Adelaide Hills had been impacted by the recent fire.
The company said there was some infrastructure damage relating to irrigation and trellising along with some heat damage to vines.
However, wine aficionados may be devastated to know that the actual damage to other wineries in the region could be much greater, with Australian Vintage estimating the fires may have wiped out a third of wine production in the Adelaide Hills.
Meanwhile, bushfires in the Shires of Dundas and Esperance in Western Australia have closed the main Eyre and Coolgardie-Esperance highways used to access Independence Group’s (ASX:IGO) Nova nickel-copper-cobalt mine in the Fraser Range.
The company said that while the fires had impacted routine site-based deliveries of supplies and haulage of concentrate from the site, it had not affected its production result for the second quarter of the 2020 financial year nor is it expected to have a material impact on its third quarter production.
New South Wales’ Department of Primary Industries has reported that thousands of livestock have been killed or euthanised as a result of bushfires while Federal Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie expressed fears that stock losses would exceed 100,000.
Insurer Suncorp said it had received more than 2,600 bushfire-related claims since September 2019 with a total estimated cost of between $315 and $345m.
While the impact of the fires is far ranging, the aid response is starting to flow through with billionaire Andrew Forrest pledging $70m through his Minderoo Foundation,
The foundation will spend $10m to mobilise specialist volunteers from Western Australia, $10m in immediate bushfire relief funding and a further $50m investment to support the development of a long-term blueprint for fire resilience.
Major miners are also moving to support firefighting and relief efforts with Independence providing 8,000 litres of jet fuel to support the Department of Fire and Emergency Services in fighting bushfires in the state.
It is also making food and accommodation available at the mine camp at Nova.
BHP (ASX:BHP) has committed to a $2m donation to the Australian Red Cross to support emergency relief efforts to bushfire impacted regions around Australia, while Rio Tinto (ASX:RIO) has increased its contribution to the Australian Red Cross by a further $750,000 to $1m.
Rio is also providing employees involved in firefighting and relief efforts with full leave entitlements.
South32 (ASX:S32) has donated a further $500,000 to the Australian Red Cross, bringing its total contribution to organisations dealing with the crisis to $1m.
It will also continue to match employee contributions to a number of supporting organisations.
Newcrest Mining (ASX:NCM) has donated $400,000 to the NSW Rural Fire Service and the Victorian CFA and will match up to $200,000 of employee donations.