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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Cyclone brewing off Australia's top iron ore region

Expected to Develop into a Category 3

Tue Jan 11, 2011 10:55pm GMT

SYDNEY Jan 12 (Reuters) - A tropical low off the west coast of Australia is expected to develop into a category 3 cyclone over the next 48 hours and head toward the Pilbara region, home to some of Australia's biggest iron ore facilities, the weather bureau said.

The low is expected to hit cyclone strength later on Wednesday and by early Friday, it was expected to be about 700 kilometres west of Port Hedland, the region's top iron ore terminal, the Bureau of Meteorology said on Wednesday.

Mining giants BHP Billiton , Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals export hundreds of millions of tonnes of iron ore from the Pilbara each year and cyclones frequently disrupt production and shipping in the Nov 1-April 30 cyclone season.

Australia is facing almost double the usual number of destructive tropical cyclones, possibly as many as 22, across oil and gas, iron ore and sugar production regions during the 2010/11 cyclone season, the weather bureau said in October.

The largest increase in cyclones is expected off the northwest, with 11-12 cyclones predicted, compared with an average of seven. (Reporting by Balazs Koranyi)

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