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Cyclone Veronica forces closure of Western Australian iron ore ports

Sydney — The iron ore exporting Port Hedland and Port Dampier in Western Australia have been cleared of commercial vessels in preparation of a severe tropical cyclone, which is expected to make landfall in the region on Sunday, the Pilbara Ports Authority said Friday.

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"As of 12 pm (AWST) severe tropical cyclone Veronica was located north-northwest of Port Hedland. The system is forecast to generally track in a southerly direction towards the Pilbara coast and is currently expected to make landfall between Karratha and Port Hedland on Sunday," it said.

"All ports are currently securing marine and landside infrastructure in preparation for potential cyclone impacts," it said.

Commonwealth Bank commodities analyst Vivek Dhar said an interruption to seaborne supply of the steel making ingredient is likely and there is a chance of more severe impacts should it head over the mining operations.

"The disruption to seaborne iron ore supply is expected to be approximately 10 million mt (approximately 0.6% of seaborne supply) if the ports are shut for five days," he said.

"A more serious disruption is possible if iron ore mines are flooded in the Pilbara, but that outcome appears unlikely," he said, noting that Australia's iron ore exports account for about 55% of the seaborne market and nearly all of that comes from Western Australia.

Australia's Bureau of Meteorology said Friday: "Severe Tropical Cyclone Veronica, a Category 4 system, is moving slowly towards the Pilbara coast. The cyclone should track south to southwest today before taking a more south to southeast track on Saturday and impact the coast. While the cyclone may weaken before reaching the coast, a severe coastal impact is likely."

Port Hedland had a monthly throughput in February of 39.4 million mt, of which 39.2 million mt was iron ore exports, which was up by less than 1% from a year earlier, Pilbara Ports Authority said earlier in the month.

From July-December last year, Dampier shipped 71.24 million mt of iron ore, according to data from the Pilbara Port Authority.

-- Nathan Richardson, newsdesk@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Ikhhlaq Singh Aujla, newsdesk@spglobal.com