Australia's top iron ore port braces for direct cyclone hit
Cyclone Rusty, which is expected to reach Australia's northwest coast on Wednesday, has already closed Port Hedland, halting the loading of millions of tonnes of iron ore, and shut offshore oil and gas fields.
Rusty could strengthen to a category four storm -- on a scale of one-to five -- by the time its reaches the port, according to the Bureau of Meteorology tracking system.
"In this case a direct hit looks likely," said Atlas Iron Managing Director Ken Brinsden, adding the miner had halted its port operations and evacuated its employees from the area.
"That implies an impact on production," Brinsden said.
BHP Billiton, Fortescue Metals Group and Atlas are forecast to ship more than 275 million tonnes of iron ore this year, or 750,000 tonnes per day, through Port Hedland.
A weaker category one system which passed the Pilbara in January forced the shutdown of all three iron ore export terminals, contributing to a nine percent drop in exports for the month and a 5.2 rise in spot prices.
Australia's weather bureau said the cyclone intensity increased to a Category 3 overnight and put the storm at about 170 km (105 miles) north-northeast of Port Hedland.
The Department of Fire and Emergency Services warned residents in low lying areas of Port Hedland
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