Cyclone lurks off West Australia as storm hits Rio mine in East

Weipa, Australia. (Image courtesy of Rio Tinto)

Gas and iron ore operations on Australia’s west coast are bracing for an approaching cyclone just as a severe storm in the nation’s northeast dumps heavy rain on Rio Tinto Group’s biggest bauxite mine.

Tropical cyclone Veronica is 545 kilometers (339 miles) north of Port Hedland, a key export point for Western Australia’s iron ore shipments. The storm is forecast to intensify as it moves closer to oil and gas operations on Saturday, according to the Bureau of Meteorology. In the east of the country, Rio has suspended its Weipa bauxite operations after cyclone Trevor made landfall.

Cyclone Trevor is expected to rapidly strengthen as it moves into the Gulf of Carpentaria, and is forecast to skirt South32 Ltd.’s manganese mine on Groote Eylandt and a Glencore-operated zinc project as it makes its way toward the Northern Territory coast. South32 will start evacuating workers from the island, a spokesman said. On average, there are 10 to 13 tropical cyclones each season, four of which typically cross the coast, according to the bureau.

Veronica was a category 2 cyclone, with sustained winds near the center of 95 kilometers per hour and wind gusts to 130 kilometers per hour, according to a bureau advisory at 2:51 p.m. Western Standard Time. It’s forecast to intensify to a category 4 by Friday. Woodside Petroleum Ltd., which operates the North West Shelf liquefied natural gas project near Karratha, said it’s taking precautions to safeguard its people and assets.

(By Ben Sharples and David Stringer)

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