Australia’s largest iron ore mining operations are returning to normal after Tropical Cyclone Christine crossed the Western Australia coast and weakened significantly.
Christine crossed the Pilbara coast between Whim Creek and Roebourne about midnight on December 30 as a category-three cyclone, but then weakened and the cyclone warning was cancelled.
A Rio Tinto spokesman said late last week that the company’s inland Pilbara mines had resumed operations and employees were returning to work. “We have commenced recovery processes in our ports, rail operations and our coastal towns.”
He said the company was continuing to focus on the safety and wellbeing of employees, their families and Pilbara communities.
BHP Billiton said on January 2 that its Port Hedland operations had also resumed. The miner's port and rail operations have been restarted in the Pilbara and its mines in the region are operating fully, BHP said in a statement to Bloomberg. No staff were injured as a result of the cyclone and equipment sustained only minor damage, BHP said.
“All mines are also fully operational,” BHP, the world’s third biggest iron ore producer said. “If there is any material impact to production it will be reported in the company’s next operational review.”
Fortescue Metals Group says its port and rail operations had been given the all clear. The company said everyone was safe and employees were returning to work. “There have been no reports of damage to infrastructure,” the company said.
Port Hedland, the world’s biggest iron ore terminal and used by BHP to export nearly 200 million tonnes of the steel-making material annually, sustained only minor damage from Cyclone Christine and reopened late on December 31. Port spokesman Steed Farrell said the storm forced Port Hedland to close the anchorage for a total of 66 hours and the port for 64 hours.
Christine slammed into the Australia’s northwest coast late on December 30 packing winds up to 160 km/hour, before losing strength as it crossed the Pilbara iron ore mining belt.
Dampier port, through which Rio Tinto and Woodside Petroleum export iron ore and natural gas, was closed for 48 hours due to the cyclone but “major exporter operations were returning to normal”, acting chief executive Paul Toussaint-Jackson told Reuters. At the port of Cape Lambert, from where Rio also ships iron ore, operations were also ramping back up.
The key shipping ports of Port Hedland, Dampier and Cape Lambert handle more than 500 million tonnes of iron ore annually, the majority of which is shipped under contract to steel mills in China.