Melbourne: Iron-ore shipments from northern Australia, the world’s biggest exporter, resumed after halting for more than two days as Tropical Cyclone Christine waned over the nation’s resource-rich Pilbara region.

Port Hedland, the world’s largest ore-export terminal, restarted shipments on 31 December, Port Hedland Port Authority spokesman Steed Farrell said on Tuesday in an e-mail. The facility, which exports iron ore from mines owned by BHP Billiton Ltd. and Fortescue Metals Group Ltd., shipped about 252 million tons in 2012, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Operations have gradually been returning to normal, said Farrell. The facility, which closed on 29 December, sustained very minor damage that wasn’t affecting operations, he said.

Australia probably accounted for about 52% of global seaborne iron-ore supply in 2013, according to Morgan Stanley. The storm, which reached Category 3 at its strongest, weakened below tropical cyclone intensity as it moved southeast across Western Australia, bringing winds with gusts of about 85 kilometers (53 miles) per hour at its center, the Bureau of Meteorology said on Tuesday on its website.

Shipments restarted at Dampier Port, about 1,500 kilometers north of Perth, at 6 pm on 31 December after they were halted late 29 December, Dampier Port Authority’s acting chief executive officer Paul Toussaint-Jackson said on Tuesday by phone.

Rio workforce

Staff at Rio Tinto Group, the world’s largest iron ore exporting company after Vale SA, were returning to work at its port and rail sites in the region, spokesman Bruce Tobin said on Tuesday in an e-mailed statement. Rio has a combined export capacity of 225 million tons at its Dampier and Cape Lambert terminals, according to the company.

Iron ore, which was unchanged at $134.20 a dry metric ton on 31 December, has rallied 22% from a low in May as China boosted stockpiles to the highest level in a year and economic growth rebounded from a two-quarter slowdown.

Iron ore may drop 7.5% this year as global supplies increase, according to Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd.

Woodside Petroleum Ltd., Australia’s second-largest oil and gas producer, said staff were returning to work at the North West Shelf liquefied natural gas project in Karratha and the A$15 billion ($13 billion) Pluto LNG plant. The company hadn’t been advised of significant damage to facilities, spokesman Daniel Clery said yesterday in an e-mail.

Fortescue, Australia’s third-largest iron ore exporter, was expected to restart port and rail operations at Port Hedland on 31 December, the company said. BHP Billiton, the world’s biggest miner, was planning to resume port operations after assessing any damage, it said in a 31 December statement.

Australia’s cyclone season typically runs from November to April with an average of 11 storms affecting shipping of commodities and potentially shutting offshore oil and gas production. BLOOMBERG

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