A powerful cyclone that brought half the world's seaborne-traded iron ore to a halt has spared Australia's Port Hedland shipping hub, making landfall about 120km to the east.

Cyclone Rusty, with destructive winds up to 200km/h, is expected to flood inland iron ore mine operations and rail links with heavy rain expected overnight and tomorrow.

"Port Hedland will escape Rusty's worst winds," the Bureau of Meteorology said.

Residents of the Pilbara iron belt have been told to prepare for a prolonged battering given the storm's slow advance, suggesting it could be several days or more before iron ore mining and shipping operations return to normal.

Satellite tracking by meteorologists showed the cyclone crossing the coastline near Pardoo, a small mining town and cattle station just east of Port Hedland, but the port town remained on high alert.

Cyclones are erratic and can quickly change direction.

Atlas Iron which operates a mine in Pardoo yielding around 2.5 million tonnes of ore a year, has evacuated the site.

Calls to local residents and businesses went unanswered.

Australia's three main iron ore ports, Port Hedland, Dampier and Cape Lambert, were closed today. Offshore oil and gas fields have also been shut down.

Severe weather warnings extend as far as 500km inland to the mining camps and towns of Tom Price, Mt Newman and Nullagine, operated by Rio Tinto , BHP Billiton and Fortescue Metals Group.

The Pilbara, a sparsely populated and inhospitable outback part of Australia, is the world's largest source of iron ore.

Rusty is the fourth cyclone to form during Australia's 2012-13 "cyclone season" which runs November to end of April.