Big miners batten down for Pilbara cyclone

AUSTRALIA’S biggest iron ore miners have stopped loading ships and suspended rail operations as cyclone Christine heads towards the Pilbara coast.

The category three system is about 180km north of Port Hedland and 305km north of Karratha, and travelling towards the WA coast.

A cyclone warning has been issued for coastal areas from Bidyadanga to Onslow, including Port Hedland, Karratha and Onslow, and extending inland to Paraburdoo.

BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals Group have suspended their port operations in the region.

BHP said "tie-down" activities at Port Hedland, Australia’s largest iron ore export port, have been completed.

"Extreme weather preparations continue across our mining operations in line with alerts issued by Department of Fire and Emergency Services," BHP said in a statement.

"Any production impacts will be in our next operational report."

The highest priority is to ensure the safety of employees, BHP said.

Rio Tinto said ship loading had now stopped, but mine and rail operations continue to operate as normal.

Fortescue Metals Group said its Port Hedland operations and rail operations had been secured, in line with the company’s cyclone readiness procedures.

"Conditions are being closely monitored and plans will be updated accordingly," the company said.

Cyclone Christine is expected to cross the coast between Port Hedland and Karratha on Monday night or early Tuesday morning, with gusts of more than 200kmh expected near the centre of the storm.
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