* Cyclone Heidi bears down on resource-rich Western
* Port Hedland, Dampier & Cape Lambert ports all closed
* Miners BHP, Rio Tinto & Fortescue all suspend shipments
* Iron ore mines still operating
* Woodside shuts several offshore oil fields
(Adds oil field closures, comment from iron ore broker,
By James Regan and Rebekah Kebede
SYDNEY/PERTH, Jan 11 A tropical cyclone
bearing down on west Australia forced the closure of some of the
world's largest iron ore ports and several offshore oil fields
on Wednesday, the first major series of shutdowns in what is
forecast to be a tempestuous summer.
Ports serving the enormous iron ore mines of northwest
Australia began closing on Tuesday night as Cyclone Heidi,
packing winds of more than 100 kph (60 mph), swept across the
Indian Ocean toward a stretch of coast where nearly two-thirds
of the world's seaborne-traded iron ore is handled.
Cyclones are a normal feature of Australian summers but the
national weather forecaster is predicting a better-than-even
chance of more than seven such storms this season.
Port Hedland, the region's largest iron ore port, exporting
around 240 million tonnes of the steel-making commodity a year,
is closed to traffic until the storm passes and any damage is
assessed, deputy harbourmaster Adrian Olsen said on Wednesday.
Australia's second and third biggest iron ore miners, BHP
Billiton and Fortescue Metals Group, both
export through Port Hedland, which lies directly in the path of
the cyclone, forecast to hit the coast late on Wednesday night.
Australia's biggest iron ore miner and the world's
second-largest, Rio Tinto, said it had also halted all
loading at Dampier and Cape Lambert ports, south of Port
Rio Tinto ships around 225 millions tonnes a year from these
two ports, which are also in the projected path of the cyclone.
Fortescue exports about 55 million tonnes a year, while BHP
Billiton ships around 155 million tonnes.
MORE CYCLONES LIKELY
Australia's largest oil and gas firm, Woodside Petroleum
, also took precautions against the onset of Cyclone
Heidi, shutting production from several offshore fields.
"In response to Tropical Cyclone Heidi, Woodside has shut-in
production from the Cossack, Wanaea, Lambert and Hermes oil
fields on the North West Shelf and the Vincent oil field off the
North West Cape," Woodside said in an emailed statement.
Heidi is rated a category-one cyclone, the lowest ranking on
a scale of one to five, but could intensify to a category two
before it hits the coast, which could mean winds picking up to
destructive speeds of around 160 kph.
The cyclone is already causing heavy rains further inland in
the Pilbara mining belt, the country's richest iron ore region,
with downpours of up to 100 mm (3.9 inches) seen as possible.
The Pilbara mines, though, are all still running.
The bureau warned in October the region was facing a 65
percent chance of being hit by more than seven cyclones during
the November to April tropical storm season.
Tropical cyclones and temporary shutdowns are a normal part
of Australian summers, but an especially stormy season can have
major impacts, such as when cyclones and flooding swamped the
coal-mining industry in the country's northeast a year ago.
"Cyclones are typical at this time of year. If it's fairly
minimal, then they'll be back on track in 48 hours or so, but if
it repeats then obviously we're talking about a different
scenario, but we'll have to wait and see," said Rory MacDonald,
iron ore broker at Freight Investor Services.
Spot iron ore prices .IO62-CNI=SI rose 1.6 percent to a
seven-week high of $142.30 a tonne on Tuesday as Chinese steel
producers boosted stockpiles ahead of a week-long Lunar New Year
break in late January.
But overall demand is still generally lacklustre, and the
spot price remains 26 percent down from its 2011 peak of $191.90
reached in mid-February last year.
(Additional reporting by Ed Davies in SYDNEY and Manolo Serapio
Jr in SINGAPORE; Editing by Lincoln Feast and Mark Bendeich)