SYDNEY Jan 21 A tropical low off the coast of
Western Australian may develop into a cyclone by Wednesday as it
moves to the west southwest off the Pilbara coastline, the heart
of the country's iron ore mining industry.
A cyclone in the same area 10 days ago shut ports handling a
fifth of the world's globally traded iron ore and cut supplies
of natural gas and oil.
If the storm reaches cyclone intensity then gales with wind
gusts of up to 100 kph (60 mph) could develop between Pardoo and
Dampier on Wednesday morning, according to the Australian Bureau
Rio Tinto uses the port at Dampier to ship
the bulk of its iron ore to overseas customers. The smaller
nearby port of Cape Lambert is also utilised.
Last year, Rio Tinto shipped 253 million tonnes of iron ore
The Australian Bureau of Meteorology said that as of 0600
GMT, the low was located near the tourist town of Broome, about
500 km (300 miles) north of Port Hedland, one of the world's
largest export ports in tonnage terms.
Port Hedland is used by BHP Billiton ,
Fortescue Metals Group and Atlas Iron to ship
At this stage if a cyclone forms it will not occur until the
low has moved some 200 km (125 miles) south of Port Hedland,
based on current weather forecasts.
Most of the iron ore is contracted by Chinese steel mills,
with Japanese and South Korean mills also big buyers.
Almost all of Australia's iron ore is mined in the far west,
a sparsely-populated area four times the size of Texas and
serviced by only a handful of ports.
Before the last cyclone, Woodside Petroleum, Apache
energy and BHP disconnected oil production vessels from offshore
fields that contribute about a third of Australia's oil
production of 390,000 barrels per day..
Operations resumed once the storm passed.
There are on average around seven cyclones in Western
Australia between November and April.
Iron ore with 62 percent iron content , the
industry benchmark, slipped 0.2 percent to $145.10 a tonne on
Friday, the lowest since Jan. 2, according to data provider
But tight iron ore supplies, partly due to weather risks in
Australia and a likely spike in China's crude steel output to
tap into a strong construction season in March, should support
prices, said bulk-commodity sales executive Melinda Moore at