PERTH Feb 27 A powerful cyclone headed for
Australia's Port Hedland, which handles a fifth of the world's
seaborne-traded iron ore, stalled off the coast but was set to
make landfall later on Wednesday with destructive winds and
Cyclone Rusty is expected to reach Australia's northwest
coast by Wednesday evening and has already closed the three main
iron ore ports in the Pilbara region, the world's largest source
of iron ore.
Rusty could strengthen to a category four storm -- on a
scale of one-to five -- by the time it reaches the port,
according to the Bureau of Meteorology. The bureau predicts the
storm will come ashore just to the east of Port Hedland.
BHP Billiton , Fortescue Metals Group
and Atlas Iron are forecast to ship more than
275 million tonnes of iron ore this year, or 750,000 tonnes per
day, through Port Hedland.
The weather bureau said the cyclone had been almost
stationary overnight about 100 km (60 miles) off the coast, but
was expected to strengthen and track south during the day.
"This is a large tropical cyclone and its slow movement is
likely to result in an extended period of destructive winds near
the track, with rainfall that is heavier than that associated
with a typical system," the weather office said.
Dangerously high storm tides and flooding were likely, it
Residents in low lying coastal areas had been evacuated,
with local media reporting a run on canned food and emergency
supplies such as water, batteries and flashlights. About 14,000
people live in Port Hedland and adjacent South Hedland.
The ports of Dampier and Cape Lambert, about 200 km (120
miles) south of Port Hedland and used by Australia's biggest
iron ore miner Rio Tinto , have also been closed
as a precaution.
Rio Tinto is targeting shipments of 260 million tonnes of
ore through these ports this year.
Iron ore prices have pulled back to just
under $152 a tonne since hitting a 16-month peak of $158.90 last
A weaker category one system which passed the Pilbara in
January forced the shutdown of all three iron ore export
terminals, contributing to a nine percent drop in exports for
the month and a 5.2 percent rise in spot prices.
Iron ore exports were worth around $60 billion a year to
Australia, the vast majority shipped through ports in the