22/12/2009 - 06:46

Cyclone closes mine, port operations

22/12/2009 - 06:46

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Mine sites ceased production and ports closed as heavy rains and strong winds battered the iron ore-rich Pilbara region overnight while other operations were left unscathed by Tropical Cyclone Laurence despite causing widespread damage as it moved inland.

Cyclone closes mine, port operations

Mine sites ceased production and ports closed as heavy rains and strong winds battered the iron ore-rich Pilbara region overnight while other operations were left unscathed by Tropical Cyclone Laurence despite causing widespread damage as it moved inland.

Newcrest Mining said it stopped production at its flagship Telfer gold mine in Western Australia at midnight last night due to heavy rain and expected gale force winds. The Telfer mine is located 450 kilometres east-south-east of Port Hedland.

"The mine has fully activated its cyclone response plan and all on-site personnel are restricted to Telfer Village until further notice," the company said in a statement.

"Non essential personnel were flown off site yesterday afternoon.

"The Telfer airport will remain closed today.

"At this stage production is expected to resume during the day shift on Wednesday."

Iron ore miner Fortescue Metals Group and mining juggernauts BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto said Laurence appeared to have missed the companies major operations in the Pilbara but further disruptions were possible.

BHP Billiton said the cyclone may cause production interruptions at its Pilbara operations although the mining giant was continuing to monitor the situation, a spokeswoman said.

"We expect there might be some production interruptions at some of our operations because of the heavy rainfall," she said.

"At Port Hedland the port closed, but our railing continues."

An FMG spokesperson said damage assessments were continuing, but it seemed the company's flagship Cloudbreak mine in the Pilbara had not been hit by the full impact of the storm.

"We are assessing the impact but the cyclone passed further to the north of Cloudbreak than the weather bureau was predicting, which augured well," he said.

And Rio said the cyclone, which was downgraded during the night from a category five storm to category three, was being monitored as it continued its path inland.

"We continue to monitor tropical tropical cyclone Laurence closely as it tracks inland, but so far there has been no impact on any operations," a company spokesman said.

A helicopter will this morning survey Western Australia's north coast which was battered by 215 kilometre an hour winds as the category five cyclone hit late yesterday afternoon.

Most of FMG's iron ore is shipped via Port Hedland, which closed operations for 30 hours during the storm.

The harbour master at the Port Hedland Port Authority, Lindsay Copeman, said the port had resumed operations at 7am and expected to begin shipments from 1100 AEDT.

Each day, about 500,000 tonnes of iron ore is shipped via Port Hedland from BHP, Rio Tinto and operations of smaller miners, Mr Copeman said.

"We are pretty confident now that Laurence is headed for the east coast, taking some rain with it across the country," he said.

"We are now looking to the north again to see when the next one is coming."

The Bureau of Meteorology said Laurence was about 155 kilometres northwest of Telfer and 125 kilometres south-south-east of Wallal.

"Although Laurence is expected to gradually weaken during today, very destructive winds are still possible this morning as the cyclone moves further inland," the Bureau said.

Widespread damage has been reported at Eighty Mile Beach Caravan Park, between Port Hedland and Broome.

A spokeswoman from the Fire and Emergency Services Authority said the caravan park was evacuated but the eight people who stayed behind escaped injury.

Despite the expectation that Laurence is expected to gradually weaken today, a red alert warning has been issued for residents in or near Sandfire, Pardoo and inland to Yarrie and Marble Bar, while those in De Grey and Port Hedland are urged to prepare to take shelter and prepare for flooding.

 


 

 

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