port hedland australia capesize iron ore

Capesize ships load ore at Port Hedland, file image (c) Garth Armstrong

reuters logoPERTH, Jan 1 (Reuters) – Ports in Australia’s resource-rich Pilbara region were returning to normal and loading vessels on Wednesday after suspending shipments and evacuating staff over the weekend as tropical cyclone Christine approached.

Port Hedland, used by BHP Billiton and Fortescue Metals to export iron ore, sustained only minor damage from the cyclone and there was no impact on port operations, which reopened late on Tuesday, port spokesman Steed Farrell said.

Cyclone Christine, which brought heavy rain and wind gusts of up to 200 km (miles) per hour to the area, forced Port Hedland to close the anchorage for a total of 66 hours and the port for 64 hours, he said.

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.

“We have commenced recovery processes in our ports, rail operations and our coastal towns, with employees starting to return to work today,” the company said in a statement emailed to Reuters.

The company’s inland mines have also resumed operations, it said.

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.

(c) 2014 Thomson Reuters, All Rights Reserved

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