Cyclone Veronica leads to operational issues for BHP, Rio Tinto

Cape Lambert.

A cyclone that made landfall at the northwest coast of Western Australia over the March 23–24 weekend has caused shipping issues for Tier 1 miners such as BHP and Rio Tinto.

Tropical Cyclone Veronica moved down through the Pilbara region, causing delays to the two companies’ export shipping at Port Hedland.

BHP announced this morning its port and rail operations at Port Hedland, which had been temporarily suspended after the cyclone, are now ramping up.

Initial inspections indicated “no major damage” to the operations, but isolated incidents of flooding on site and along sections of the miner’s rail routes have stymied train movements, BHP said.

The company is expected to take a production hit of six to eight million tonnes as a result of the delays.

“Final production impacts and revised production and unit cost guidance will be disclosed once they are finalised,” BHP said in an ASX statement.

Rio Tinto declared force majeure after its Cape Lambert A port facility sustained damage in the storm, and was working with certain export customers to minimise disruption to supplies.

The combination of the shipping delays and a fire at Rio Tinto’s Robe Valley iron ore project in January are expected to contribute to a loss of 14 million tonnes of production.

Cyclone Veronica was one of two cyclones that affected north Australia within one weekend. Cyclone Trevor was the other which made landfall on March 23 along the southern coast of the Gulf of Carpentaria in the Northern Territory as a category four cyclone.

It has resulted in government-led evacuations and further temporary mine closures, including Rio Tinto’s Weipa bauxite operations in Queensland.