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SYDNEY (Reuters) - A tropical low off Australia's northwest coast that brought nearly half the world's iron ore trade to a halt intensified to cyclone strength on Wednesday, keeping huge ports used by miners Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton idle.

Cyclone Peta has formed just off the Pilbara coast where the ports are located, generating 100-kph gales, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology said.

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