Strengthened cyclone forces Australia to halt iron ore exports

Iron ore shipments from northern Australia, the world’s biggest exporter, and some offshore oil drilling were halted Monday morning as tropical cyclone Christine intensified to a category 3 storm overnight, forcing local authorities to issue several red alerts.

Strengthened cyclone forces Australia to halt iron ore exports

Screengrab from Dovorack Analysis, via YouTube

Western Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology said the cyclone is expected to bring gusts topping 200 km/h (124 mph) by most coastal communities, including the towns of Port Hedland and South Hedland, in the country’s iron ore rich Pilbara region.

Australia’s largest iron ore miners — BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals Group— have already stopped loading ships and suspended rail operations.

Tropical Cyclone Christine, which intensified to a category 3 storm overnight, is expected to make landfall at around midnight local time between Karratha and Port Hedland on resource-rich but sparsely-populated Pilbara coast, source of about 50% of the global iron ore demand.

Western Australia  – the world's biggest iron ore exporter – is no stranger to these intense storms. According to the Bureau of Meteorology, the region is the most prone to experience the natural phenomenon, with an average of two cyclones affecting the state every year.