02/12/2010 - 00:00

Pilbara juniors bemoan missed opportunity

02/12/2010 - 00:00

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THE Pilbara’s emerging junior iron ore sector fears its best chance of winning guaranteed rail haulage rights will be lost forever when the state’s Legislative Council rises for the last time in 2010 this week.

THE Pilbara’s emerging junior iron ore sector fears its best chance of winning guaranteed rail haulage rights will be lost forever when the state’s Legislative Council rises for the last time in 2010 this week.

The state government last week scheduled one last sitting of the upper house for today (Thursday December 2) even though parliament was due to retire for the year last Thursday.

The primary reason for the special sitting is to secure the passage of two key pieces of legislation relating to iron ore production in the Pilbara.

The first piece of iron ore legislation to go before the council is a proposed amendment to the state agreement covering Fortescue Metals Group’s Pilbara port and rail infrastructure needed for it to start a newly sanctioned $8.4 billion Pilbara expansion.

Of more interest to groups such as North West Iron Ore Alliance, however, is the expected passage of amendments to 11 state agreements that will provide greater operational flexibility across BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto’s Pilbara operations.

The proposed amendments were passed by the lower house last week and now need only to pass the upper house to take effect.

The state government has fast-tracked passage of the bill to lock in a one-off $350 million payment from the mining giants, which has been earmarked for the state’s proposed new children’s hospital.

The miners also agreed to give up long-standing concessional royalty rates in return for changes, which will remove ease existing restrictions on which ports and railways can be used to transport ore from specific areas, and allow greater blending of ore from different deposits.

They could potentially even enable the two big miners to share some export infrastructure, where it is commercially attractive to do so.

The North West Alliance believes the government should have taken the opportunity to also lock in enforceable rail access rights for junior miners in the form of guaranteed ore haulage allocations on fair commercial terms.

However, the proposed amendments have no such conditions and leave in place the Pilbara giants’ existing but totally ineffectual third-party haulage obligations.

Alliance chief executive Tony Considine said it was time the government started listening to the juniors.

“The requirements of the emerging iron ore mining companies need to be taken into consideration,” he said.

While amendments to assist the big miners have been fast-tracked, the alliance is waiting for guidance on the timing of legislation allowing it construct a 32-kilomtre rail spur to the planned South West Creek export wharf at Port Hedland will be drafted.

 

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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