Australia's Cyclone Hits Iron Ore Ports, Closing Operations
Australia’s Port Hedland was closed early Wednesday by the threat of tropical cyclone Heidi along with other large iron ore export terminals. Port Authority spokesman Steed Farrell said they had activated their cyclone contingency plan in preparation for the wild weather. "We cleared inbound traffic into the port and cleared the port of vessels that needed to get out," he said. This port has in recent months been exporting an average 700,000 tons of iron ore each day and is still closed. The full extent of damage done to the region's mining operations and the port's infrastructure has not been fully assessed yet as the storm just passed through Thursday morning. According to Reuter’s article, Port Dampier was also temporarily shut down due to the cyclone but has since reopened after a 24-hour shutdown. Australia had a similar problem last year when heavy rains closed the iron ore and coal mines for an extended period of time which took iron ore and coking coal prices to record levels in China.
Australia's second- and third-biggest iron ore miners, BHP Billiton and Fortescue Metals Group, both export iron ore through Port Hedland while Rio Tinto uses the Dampier port. Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals said they have stopped loading ships but operating remained as normal while Santos Ltd shut its Mutineer-Exeter oil field along with Woodside Petroleum suspending operations. BHP Billiton says it always takes a conservative approach to managing its operations in cyclone or extreme weather situations.