Rio Tinto had no knowledge of the Wright family’s interests in the Pilbara tenements it co-owns with Hancock Prospecting, a court was told.
Lawyers for Rio Tinto, as Hamersley Iron, today made closing submissions as an interested party to the lengthy civil trial over billions of dollars’ worth of iron ore royalties in the Supreme Court of Western Australia.
WPPL is also claiming part ownership of Hope Downs reserves previously known as East Angelas, also co-owned by Rio Tinto and HPPL.
Grant Donaldson SC, on behalf of Hamersley Iron, told the court that WPPL was relying on documents leading up to the 2005 agreement between the company and HPPL in its claim that his client knew a dispute was brewing.
“Before dealing with those documents, I should also note that the contention that is put as to the knowledge is extraordinary vagary,” Mr Donaldson said.
“Precisely what actual finding would be sought in this respect by WPPL had not been stated to Your Honour, as we understand it, with clarity.
“It is plain these allegations have no substance.
“There is nothing at all with respect to those documents that demonstrate or even suggest that Hammersley had knowledge of any claim of WPPL’s to the ownership to East Angelas.”
WPPL previously told the court that Hamersley knew there were “question marks” around the ownership of East Angelas as shown in a record of a meeting in June 2005.
Speaking to the court, Mr Donaldson said Hamersley should be treated as an innocent purchaser with no knowledge of the rights of East Angelas exploration licences.
However, Mr Donaldson told the court that the “question marks” in the meeting record represented the dispute over royalties, not ownership.
“There is no pleaded allegation that Hamersley has knowledge or to be treated other than an innocent third party,” he said.
“WPPL’s case is that Hamersley had knowledge as to [the] question marks to their position…at the time of entry into cooperation agreement.
“Nothing in there that gives rise to any understanding or could give rise to any understanding to anything other than issues to royalties.”
WPPL is run by descendants of Peter Wright, a mining pioneer known as the former business partner of HPPL founder, Lang Hancock.
Gina Rinehart has led HPPL since her father's death in 1992.
The trial continues.