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Cyclone Bearing Down on Australian Iron Ore Port Gains Strength

Severe Tropical Cyclone Rusty, bearing down on north-west Australia’s Port Hedland, the world’s biggest bulk export terminal, has gained strength to become a category four storm.

Rusty, located about 130 kilometers (81 miles) north-east of the town, is expected to resume a southerly track toward the Pilbara coast today and may bring wind gusts stronger than 165 kilometers an hour, Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology said in an update at 5:36 a.m. western standard time on its website. Parts of the town were evacuated yesterday.

Port Hedland, home to about 20,200 people, exports iron ore from mines owned by BHP Billiton Ltd., the world’s biggest mining company, Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. and Atlas Iron Ltd. Port Hedland as well as Rio Tinto Group’s shipping terminals at Dampier and Cape Lambert ports shut earlier this week.

Ore shipments will fall by about 5 million metric tons, or about 5 percent of global volume, tightening supply into March, Melinda Moore, a London-based bulk-commodity sales executive at Standard Bank Plc, said yesterday in an e-mailed report.

“We are assuming minimal damage to inland mining facilities at this stage, with only a few days of reducing activities, with safety key,” Moore said.

Shipments totaled 238.9 million tons in fiscal 2012, according to the Port Hedland Port Authority. Global trade of iron ore by sea will come to 1.2 billion tons this year, according to Clarkson Plc, the largest shipbroker.

Cyclone season lasts from about November to April and high winds as well as flooding can disrupt iron ore operations in the world’s biggest exporter.

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