SYDNEY Jan 12 The Australian port of Dampier,
which handles close to a fifth of the world's seabourne iron ore
trade for resources giant Rio Tinto , will
reopen on Saturday after a two-day closure due to a cyclone off
the northwest Australian coast.
"The cyclone danger has passed and we will be resume ship
loading later on Saturday morning," a spokeswoman for the port
told Reuters, adding the port had suffered no damage despite
being hit by high seas as the storm passed some 400 kms (250
miles) out to seas.
A second smaller port, Cape Lambert, which was also closed
due to the cyclone and is used by Rio Tinto was also expected to
International prices paid for iron ore, which is needed to
make steel, have been climbing ahead of the start of the
Australian cyclone season, which typically runs from November to
April, in part over concerns shipments could face delays.
Narelle is the first cyclone of the 2012-13 season.
Most the iron ore is contracted by Chinese steel mills, with
Japanese and South Korean mills also big buyers.
Rio Tinto, the world's second-largest iron ore producer,
suspended ship loading at Dampier and Cape Lambert on Thursday
as category four Cyclone Narelle intensified.
Together, the ports handle close to 200 million tonnes of
Rio Tinto's iron ore exports annually, representing some 23
percent of the global trade in the steelmaking ingredient.
Australian oil producers Woodside Petroleum, Apache
Corp and BHP Billiton were forced to
disconnect oil production vessels from offshore fields before
the storm passed.
Cyclone Narelle is expected to maintain its category 4
strength, one short of the maximum category five, with 250 kmph
(155 mph) winds, for another seven hours as it continues to move
south away from the Australian coast and the Pilbara iron ore
mining and shipping belt.
Almost all of Australia's iron ore is mined in the nation's
far west, a sparsely-populated expanse four times the size of
Texas and serviced by only a handful of ports.
The cyclone is expected to drop to a category 2 storm by
early Sunday morning, according to the Australian Bureau of