A burnt conveyor belt at the Millaquin Mill in East Bundaberg.
A burnt conveyor belt at the Millaquin Mill in East Bundaberg. Craig Warhurst

Fire delays Millaquin crush for two weeks

IN A "disastrous" start to the harvest season, Millaquin canegrowers will have to sit on their hands for the next two weeks while investigations continue into the fire which struck the mill on Friday night.

While the crush began today at the Bingera, "Millaquin hasn't crushed anything and it won't for maybe a fortnight," Bundaberg Canegrowers chairman Allan Dingle said. "We'll just have to sit back and wait."

Mr Dingle inspected the mill on Sunday with local growers and Bundaberg Sugar staff and said there was "substantial damage", though the true impact on the harvest was "a bit of an unknown at this stage".

Damage to the electrical wiring in particular would take time to repair, he said.

Mr Dingle said he was thankful there wasn't any more damage.

"If it had got into the gas tanks it would have been catastrophic - we are lucky in that regard."

Delaying the crush now will mean a "blowout" at the end of the season, which will likely end around late November, instead of early to mid November as growers had hoped, Mr Dingle said.

"That is much later than what we would like. Around then you get into the storm season - and the risk of rain can put the harvest at risk."

Bundaberg Sugar general manager operations David Pickering has said damages were still being assessed, but were expected to run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.