UPDATE 1-Fortescue CEO says iron ore market to remain robust for some time

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MELBOURNE, Feb 18 (Reuters) - The global iron ore market is likely to remain robust for some time, given supply concerns and stronger-than-usual demand from top consumer China, Fortescue Metals Group Chief Executive Elizabeth Gaines said on Thursday.

“Not only in China, but the ex-China activity is also picking up to pre-COVID levels,” she told a media call. “Our view is that the market will remain robust for some time.”

In China, activity rates didn’t slow as much as is normal for the Lunar New Year because not as many workers returned home, she said. Many remained in the cities where they work because of COVID-19 related travel restrictions.

Ongoing supply issues were also likely to keep prices underpinned given COVID-19-related disruptions at Brazil’s Vale , and the potential for further weather-related port stoppages amid the northern Australian cyclone season.

Fortescue exports from the world’s largest iron ore export hub of Port Hedland, Western Australia, where storms have already halted operations twice this season.

Reporting by Melanie Burton; Editing by Christian Schmollinger and Tom Hogue