SYDNEY, Dec 21 (Reuters) - Two tropical lows off northern Australia could develop into cyclones in coming days, but pose no immediate threat to mining and crop regions devastated by cyclones and flooding in early 2011.
The two lows off the coast of Queensland state and the Northern Territory were travelling east and north respectively and were not forecast to touch land, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology warned on Wednesday.
The low in the Coral Sea, about 1,100 kms (680 miles)off north Queensland, was expected to develop into a cyclone in the next 12 to 18 hours, senior forecaster for the bureau Michelle Berry told Reuters.
“At this stage we do not expect to have any direct impact on the Queensland coast,” Berry said.
Far north Queensland is home to some of the world’s biggest deposits of bauxite, much of it mined by Rio Tinto, as well as alumina, aluminium, copper and nickel making facilities.
Berry said that if the storm maintained its predicted course southeast of Australia it could potentially pose a threat to the French territory of New Caledonia later in the week.
Societe Le Nickel, a subsidiary of France’s Eramet suspended work at its five nickel mines on the island last January as a precaution against Cyclone Vania.
It’s Doniambo smelter in the capital Nomeau produces about 55,000 tonnes of nickel a year from ores supplied by the mines.
In the sparsely-populated Northern Territory, the bureau said a monsoon trough 250 kms (155 miles) off the coast of Darwin will develop into a tropical low, and there is a 50 to 100 percent chance of a cyclone developing by Friday.
Australia is bracing for a higher than normal number of cyclones over its November-April tropical storm season due to the presence of a La Nina weather pattern.
The first cyclone of the season, named Alenga, developed earlier this month in the Indian Ocean off the west coast but dissipated before nearing land.
A barrage of cyclones and tropical storms during the last storm season flooded collieries and halted iron ore mining while ripping apart sugar and wheat crops, driving up commodities prices around the world.
Storm damage cut Australia’s commodity-weighted economy’s gross domestic product growth by A$20 billion, or 1.5 percent, in the 2010-2011 financial year.