March 18, 2012 / 5:25 AM / 5 years ago

Australian iron ore shipping activity resumes after cyclone

2 Min Read

PERTH, March 18 (Reuters) - Shipping operations at Australia's Port Hedland have resumed after a tropical cyclone that passed through the Pilbara iron ore belt weakened to below cyclone intensity and moved inland on Sunday.

Port Hedland, the region's largest iron ore terminal, closed the anchorage for 66 hours and the port for a total of 52 hours due to Tropical Cyclone Lua, which crossed the coast some 100 kms (60 miles) north in a sparsely populated area on Saturday afternoon, local time.

"Conditions have now improved to a level where the anchorage will be open at 1000 with a view to first port entry and port opening from around 1200 today," the Port Hedland Port Authority said in a statement.

Australia's second- and third-biggest iron ore miners, BHP Billiton and Fortescue Metals Group, both export through Port Hedland. Last month, 14.58 tonnes of the steel-making material were shipped from the port, according to the authority's data.

The weather bureau on Sunday downgraded the cyclone which hit land with wind speeds of up to 270 kms an hour, to a severe weather warning for the inland northern goldfields region. Wind speeds of up to 100 kms an hour and heavy rain were still expected, the bureau said.

Authorities are gathering information to assess the damage.

"We've only got scant reports of damage at this stage," Fire and Emergency Service manager Les Hayter told reporters.

Supply concerns because of the cyclone along with recent gains in Chinese steel prices helped spur iron ore prices to the highest in nearly four months on Friday.

Cyclones regularly strike during Australia's summer and often force offshore oil and gas platforms to suspend operations.

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