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Twin cyclones batter Australia, halting mining operations

[SYDNEY] Tropical Cyclone Veronica is forecast to make a sharp turn at the coast, setting it on a path toward Australia's biggest gas export hub and sparing the nation's iron ore heartland.

After making landfall Sunday, the cyclone is lingering near the Western Australia coast and is forecast to weaken further Monday as it moves west toward the Burrup Peninsula, according to the weather bureau. That's in the direction of some of the nation's biggest liquefied natural gas projects, including the Woodside Petroleum Ltd.-operated North West Shelf LNG and Chevron Corp.'s Gorgon LNG.

Woodside on Monday said that the NWS and Pluto LNG projects near Dampier are using essential staff only at the plants and that it evacuated all workers from offshore platforms. Chevron didn't respond to requests for comment. Both projects last week were rescheduling cargo loadings as the storm approached, according to traders with knowledge of the situation.

While Veronica has eased to a category 2 cyclone, it's still lashing the coast with destructive winds in excess of 125 kilometers (78 miles) per hour and dumping heavy rain conducive to major flooding. Ships left ports and workers were evacuated last week ahead of the approaching storm, which was initially forecast to track inland through the Pilbara, the region where BHP Group and Rio Tinto Group have major iron ore mining operations.

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Lithium producer Altura Mining Ltd., which halted output and evacuated all but a skeleton crew in preparation for Veronica's arrival in the Pilbara, said the impact had been less severe than expected and wouldn't cause damage to a processing plant.

"It was apparent throughout Saturday and Sunday that the destructive winds forecast did not occur in the project or camp site area," the company, which operates a mine at Pilgangoora in the northern Pilbara, said Monday in a statement. "Therefore, damage to the plant is not expected at this stage."

Export Ports

Barrick Gold Corp. is not expecting operations at its joint venture with Newmont Mining Corp. near Kalgoorlie to be affected, but it's "taking precautionary measures just in case," according to an email from Barrick spokeswoman Kathy du Plessis.

While iron ore mines are likely to be spared, export ports used by Rio, BHP and Fortescue Metals Group remain closed as the cyclone sits off the Pilbara coast. Port Hedland and the Port of Dampier remain on red alert, according to a notice Monday from shipping and logistics firm Gulf Agency Co. (Australia).

Australia's north was also hit by Tropical Cyclone Trevor, which crossed the Northern Territory coast on Saturday morning as a category 4 storm with wind gusts of 250 kilometers per hour. The storm was downgraded to a tropical low on Sunday morning. Glencore said it was resuming operations at its McArthur River zinc mine and Bing Bong port, which had been evacuated earlier.

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