WA cyclone halts iron ore exports
CYCLONE Rusty, which is already causing destructive winds and dangerous flooding in the Pilbara, is expected to have a big impact on mining companies operating in the area, with some $500 million of iron ore exports already halted.
The category three cyclone, which was expected to cross the coast late on Wednesday, is large and slow-moving, meaning the bad weather would hang around for longer than usual and bring a lot of rain, which would cause further flooding.
Any interruption in the activity reduces production and, therefore, profit margins.
The iron ore industry in the region is worth $50 billion in exports per year.
Mining giant Rio Tinto said it had prepared for the storm by closing the Port Walcott port at Cape Lambert and had finished loading ships at its Dampier ports.
Port Hedland, used by BHP Billiton and Fortescue Metals Group, officially closed early on Monday as the last vessel cleared the shipping channel. Rio Tinto's Dampier and Cape Lambert ports, about 200 kilometres south of Port Hedland, have also begun to close operations.
The professor of mining geology at the University of Adelaide, Ian Plimer, said mining and resources companies planned for such incidents and interruptions in output were taken into account on an annual basis.
"All the iron ore companies cater for a cyclone season in terms of production and what it does to their production," he said.
"They have cyclone-proofing mechanisms at each of the mines."
Western Australian Chamber of Minerals and Energy chief executive Reg Howard-Smith said worker safety was of primary concern.
"The Pilbara region is of great economic importance to the WA and national economies. Unfortunately, the region also has plenty of cyclone activity," Mr Howard-Smith said.
"Residents and particularly resource sector companies operating in the region are well drilled in how to prepare for these events."
The Dampier port deals with a variety of cargo including supplies for offshore oil and gas facilities.
According to the port's website, it experiences an average of three cyclones a year.