Australia's Port Hedland, one of the world's largest export terminals for iron ore, reopened on Wednesday following a two-day suspension as a cyclone passed down the western coast, the port's harbourmaster said.
There was no damage and the cyclone just passed, harbourmaster John Finch said. We are up and running.
But the Category 2 cyclone, named Carlos, continued to cause disruptions to commercial operations along Australia's Western coast, with Rio Tinto conducting inspections of its port facilities before resuming operations and Apache Corp suspending gas production.
Australia's newest producer, BC Iron , said it was forced to suspend ore haulage from its Nullagine mine due to heavy rains generated by Carlos.
It said the delays were not expected to have a material effect on its long-term production plans and that sufficient ore was stockpiled at on the coast in order to enable a joint shipment with Fortescue Metals Group to proceed as planned on Thursday.
BC Iron plans to export 1 million tonnes by June 2011 and then operate at an annual rate of 3 million tonnes.
BHP Billiton relies on Port Hedland to ship more than 100 million tonnes of iron ore a year. Fortescue Metals and Atlas Iron also use the port.
Carlos, packing winds of 155 kilometres per hour, passed over Australia's main iron ore export terminals overnight, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology said on Wednesday, with no immediate reports of major damage.
The cyclone is expected to intensify as it moves over open water to the west during Wednesday afternoon away from land, the bureau said. Carlos brought the majority of Australia's 400-million-tonnes-a-year iron ore export industry -- the world's largest -- to a halt as shipping in a 200 kilometre stretch between Port Hedland and the Port of Dampier was halted while the storm swept down the coastline.
It typically takes a day or so for port operations serving the iron-rich Pilbara mining district to return to normal after a cyclone, depending on how quickly sea swells subside.
High winds overnight around the Pilbara communities of Dampier and Pannawonica, where Rio Tinto mines and ships more than 200 million tonnes of iron ore annually, has passed, according to the bureau.
Inspections of all sites are still underway, so we don't have the full picture yet, Rio Tinto said in a e-mail to Reuters. All staff are back at work on coastal operations, preparations for resumption are in full swing.
Rio Tinto has already warned that shipping volumes were likely to be affected this quarter after cyclones Carlos and Dianne, which moved further off the coast this week hampered its operations.
Apache temporarily halted gas production at its Varanus Island gas processing hub off the coast of Western Australia due to Carlos, according to a company spokesman.
Production will resume when weather conditions permit, spokesman, David Parker, said.
The Varanus Island gas processing hub provides about a third of Western Australia's domestic gas supply.