A tropical storm off the coast of Western Australia has temporarily closed down port operations for Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton, Fortescue Metals Group, and other Pilbara miners.
Offshore oil and gas fields have also been closed down, with Apache Energy suspending operations in the Stag and Van Gogh fields.
Rio Tinto closed its Cape Lambert and Dampier ports yesterday in preparation for the storm, and BHP and FMG have also closed down operations at Port Hedland.
The Port Hedland Port Authority said 35 vessels had been moved out to sea in preparation for the storm, and work had been underway to make sure equipment and property was secure.
O’Donnell Griffin rail contractor Ash Edelman told Australian Mining rain was already falling hard on Port Hedland and all roads going out to the company's Mooka camp were closed, with the site on blue alert.
“It’s smashing down rain, the rain is just hammering down,” he said.
Edelman said usual works had been cancelled due to weather, and workers were bunkering down at the camp located about twenty minutes east of Port Headland .
“Everyone’s sleeping in their room, it’s not too bad,” he said.
Edelman said employees usually worked a ten to twelve hour day, but with work called off because of the storm they were only being paid for eight hours.
In a statement this morning the Bureau of Meterology said heavy rainfall was expected in the Pilbara, but the storm would weaken as it crossed the coast.
“The low lies just to the north of the Pilbara, and it may develop into a tropical cyclone during the day as it begins to track in a southwest direction towards the Pilbara coast,” it said.
“If the system does reach cyclone intensity then gales with wind gusts to 100 kilometres per hour could develop between Port Hedland and Mardie during the day, and possibly extending west to Onslow in the evening.
The BOM said communities between Port Hedland, Karratha, and Mardie were on blue alert for the storm, and needed to prepare for cylconic weather.