SYDNEY - A tropical low building in the Indian Ocean is forecast to reach cyclone strength on Friday as it heads towards Australia's north west coast but posed no immediate threat to mining communities in the region.
A stage one cyclone with winds gusting up to 125 km (77 miles) per hour was expected to brush the coastline late Saturday or early Sunday before weakening as it makes its way further north, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.
If it forms, the cyclone would be the first over the Australian summer storm season running from Nov. 1 to April 30.
Based on Bureau of Meteorology tracking data, the storm would make landfall some 1,000 km (600 miles) north of the iron ore shipping terminals of Port Hedland, Dampier and Cape Lambert.
Each year, cyclones close shipping lanes and disrupt mining of hundreds of millions of tonnes of iron ore, coal and other commodities in Australia.
Last February, Cyclone Rusty, packing winds up to 200 km per hour, closed Cape Lambert and Dampier ports used by Rio Tinto (RIO.AX RIO.L), as well as Port Hedland, used by BHP Billiton (BHP.AX BLT.L) and Fortescue Metals.
The three ports handle more than 500 million tonnes of iron ore annually.
Australia can expect an average cyclone season with up to 11 tropical storms, four of them severe, over the storm season, according to forecasters.