Australia Iron Ore, Oil Operations Restart After Cyclone

Atlas Iron Ltd. (AGO), an Australian iron ore producer, and Apache Corp. resumed mining and oil drilling operations after the biggest storm of the year moved through Western Australia’s Pilbara region two days ago.

Rio Tinto Group (RIO)’s mines and other businesses in the region escaped mostly unscathed after Tropical Cyclone Lua, bearing winds as strong as 250 kilometers (155 miles) an hour, hit land on March 17. The Category 4 storm was downgraded to an ex- tropical cyclone yesterday, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.

“I’ve never seen so minor damage from so strong a cyclone,” Les Hayter, manager of public information at the Fire & Emergency Services Authority of Western Australia, said yesterday in a phone interview. “It’s unbelievable,” said the veteran of 15 cyclones.

The Pardoo-Wodgina mines have resumed and haulage from its Pardoo operation is expected to restart by tomorrow, Perth-based Atlas said in a statement. Apache (APA) is re-mobilizing its Stag oil platform, the company said in an e-mail. Woodside Petroleum Ltd. restarted production at its Enfield oilfield off the north-west coast, while the Vincent, Cossack, Wanaea, Lambert and Hermes fields remain shut, the company said in an e-mail.

Large Swells

The port of Dampier, used by Rio, the world’s second- biggest shipper of iron ore, had shut down in anticipation of large swells, said Gervase Greene, a spokesman for the company. London-based Rio Tinto secured its Dampier Salt operations while iron ore mining further inland continued, he said March 16. All alerts have been lifted and operations are returning to normal, he said yesterday.

Port Hedland, the world’s biggest iron ore port used by BHP Billiton Ltd. (BHP) and Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. (FMG), also shut down on March 15 in anticipation of the storm. It reopened yesterday.

Hayter said he spoke with all mines in the region and was told the damage from the storm was negligible and no one was injured. BHP’s Yarrie Mine had damage to a roof and an outbuilding, Hayter said.

Fiona Martin, a BHP spokeswoman in Melbourne, said yesterday the company was monitoring the situation and would report on the impacts of the storm in its next production statement.

The storm came ashore March 17 with the eye crossing onto land in a remote region near Pardoo Station, about 120 kilometers northeast of Port Hedland.

There’s some structural damage to the Pardoo Roadhouse and it’s still being assessed, Hayter said.

‘Absolutely Horrific’

The roadhouse manager, Janet Robb, told the Australian Associated Press that enduring the storm was “absolutely horrific” with water seeping into the building through every window seal and light fitting.

The cyclone had prompted Woodside Petroleum (WPL), Apache and Santos Ltd. (STO) to shut output at offshore fields that account for more than one-quarter of Australia’s oil output.

Chevron Corp. (CVX) evacuated workers from Barrow Island where it’s building the $37 billion Gorgon liquefied natural gas project and the Wheatstone LNG venture, the San Ramon, California-based company said in an e-mailed statement March 15.

“It was a bit of luck and a lot of good preparations,” Hayter said, in reference to the minimal damage. “The communities really did their bit.”

The Bureau of Meteorology canceled a warning for a new potential cyclone off the northeastern Australian coast.

To contact the reporters on this story: Joe Schneider in Sydney at jschneider5@bloomberg.net; Elisabeth Behrmann in Sydney at ebehrmann1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Tighe at ptighe@bloomberg.net

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