Australia’s Pilbara port fire impacts shipping

(Credit: Chesapeakeclimate, via Wikimedia Commons)

A blaze at Rio Tinto’s Cape Lambert iron ore export terminal in Australia’s Pilbara closed some operations and delayed shipments in January.

Workers at the site recorded the fire on video and posted it on the union website. This is the second fire in an Australian port in three months.

While an investigation is under way, one worker reported that the fire was sparked by hot slag landing on a moving conveyor belt during oxytocin’s-acetylene torch cutting.

No one was injured and the fire was quickly put under control, but some exports of ore to China were delayed.

When contacted by SAS, a representative for Rio Tinto would not comment on the reports regarding the cause of the fire, saying a full investigation was under way and would take some weeks.

“The fire which broke out on 10 January 2019 at Cape Lambert port caused damage to a section of the Robe River screen facility that separates Robe Valley lump and fine products,” he said in a statement.

“As a result, Rio Tinto has declared force majeure on impacted customers. Rio Tinto is assessing the full impact of the damage and will do all it can to try and minimise disruption to our customers. The fire has had no impact on the shipping of all other Pilbara iron ore products.”

Robe Valley and West Angelas are owned by the Robe River joint venture of Rio Tinto (53%), Mitsui (33%), and Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corporation (14%).

Meanwhile, in June last year crew had to be evacuated from the Iron Chieftain bulk carrier in Port Kembla, Australia while around 100 fire fighters battled to contain a blaze on board the vessel. The fire, which began on the conveyor belt during discharge of a load of dolomite, spread to the ship’s hold.

While there were no injuries, fire fighters and tugs took a week to put out the blaze. Shipowner CSL Australia subsequently retired the damaged vessel from the trade.