SYDNEY Dec 30 A tropical cyclone intensifying
off northwestern Australia was on course to sweep across some of
the world's largest iron ore mines after causing giant shipping
ports to close.
Iron ore prices rose on Monday as shipments of millions of
tonnes of iron ore were suspended from the west Australian ports
of Port Hedland, Dampier and Cape Lambert ahead of Cyclone
Christine making landfall later on Monday or early Tuesday.
The most-traded iron ore futures May contract on the Dalian
Commodity Exchange rose to a session high of 920 yuan
($150), a level last seen on Dec. 17.
A declaration of force majeure by Vale on some
shipments due to heavy rains in Brazil contributed to the price
Australia is the world's biggest producer of iron ore, mined
by BHP Billiton , Rio Tinto and
Fortescue Metals. Most Australian iron ore is shipped
under contract to steel mills in China.
"Extreme weather preparations continue across our mining
operations in line with alerts issued by the Department of Fire
and Emergency Services," said a spokeswoman for BHP, Australia's
No. 2 supplier.
Cyclone Christine is a category three tropical storm and the
second cyclone to develop off western Australia this cyclone
season, which runs November through April.
"Very destructive winds with gusts in excess of 200
kilometres per hour are likely near the centre as the cyclone
crosses the coast," the Australian Bureau of Meteorology said.
Cyclones typically cause disruptions to mining operations of
between two and five days, initially closing ports and then
hitting inland mines with heavy rainfall and sometimes flooding.
Top Australian supplier Rio Tinto, which is relying on the
nearby ports of Cape Lambert and Dampier to ship 290 million
tonnes of ore next year, halted port activities on Sunday.
If Christine's path remains unchanged, a red alert --
meaning residents must seek shelter -- was likely for the mining
hubs of Tom Price and Paraburdoo from 2200 GMT on Monday, the
weather bureau said. The area is home to some of Australia's
biggest iron ore mines.
Exports from Port Hedland, used by BHP and Fortescue, were
up 29 percent to 28.1 million tonnes year-on-year in November