BHP iron ore shipments halt as cyclone threatens Australian mines

Monday, 21 December 2009 11:16:40 (GMT+3)   -  
SteelOrbis News

A gigantic cyclone has been moving into Western Australia's Pilbara area, famous for its rich iron ore reserves, causing the world's biggest mining company BHP Billiton Ltd to delay shipments of the steel-making ingredient. Tropical cyclone Laurence had last week also caused evacuations of oil and gas platforms.

Port Hedland was closed Monday as BHP Billiton Ltd halted shipments, Melbourne-based company spokeswoman Samantha Evans reportedly said, adding, "We expect there may be some production interruptions at some operations because of heavy rainfall. Otherwise we are mainly just keeping a watch on the cyclone's path."  The port was closed at 1 am, harbor master Lindsay Copeman confirmed, according to financial news wires.

Eleven iron ore mines owned by Rio Tinto Group and seven owned by BHP Billiton operate in the Pilbara area, which accounts for 73 percent of the country's natural gas exports and 62 percent of its mining production. Western Australia is on alert due to the cyclone, the state's Fire and Emergency Services Authority said in a statement on Monday.

Rio Tinto, the main customer of Dampier port, which is still active despite the cyclone, said it is very unlikely that the company's iron ore production and shipments from the port will be affected, adding that Rio is "keeping a close eye" on the cyclone's path.

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