March 7, 2013 / 10:43 PM / in 5 years

Tropical cyclone forms off Australia's east coast

SYDNEY, March 8 (Reuters) - A tropical cyclone that has formed 1,000 km (600 miles) off Australia’s northeast coast is likely head further out to sea, Australia’s weather bureau said on Friday, sparing the region’s coal and sugar industries and coastal communities.

Tropical Cyclone Sandra is currently a category one storm, the lowest on a one to five scale, but is expected to strengthen and head southeast through the Coral Sea in the direction of New Caledonia.

Northern Australia on average is hit with 11 tropical cyclones between November and April each season. Sandra is the seventh of the current summer.

A tropical storm in Queensland in January briefly reached cyclone strength and forced MMG Ltd to temporarily halt shipments of zinc concentrate from its Century mine in the state’s north, the second-largest zinc mine in the world.

It also brought heavy rains to the state’s collieries further south, which produce about half of the world’s coking coal, flooding rail haulage lines and shutting mines and ports.

Last month, Cyclone Rusty tore through the northwestern Pilbara iron belt, closing Indian Ocean shipping ports handling half the world’s sea-borne iron ore trade and dumping up to 600 mm, or 2 feet, of rain.

Reporting by Lincoln Feast; Editing by Alison Williams

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