Clive Palmer’s Mineralogy has defiantly vowed to fight a court judgment resoundingly in favour of the company’s estranged Chinese joint venture partner.
The long-running battle has been over the Cape Preston port in Western Australia, the export point for iron ore from the $8 billion-plus Sino Iron project, which exploits a Mineralogy-owned deposit.
Mineralogy sought to terminate CITIC’s right to continue using the port after the state-owned enterprise built it, saying it should not have exclusive control of the facility.
Mr Palmer’s private company claimed there had been a breach of an agreement between Mineralogy and CITIC, and that it had the ultimate right to operate the port as it owned the mining tenements.
But the Federal Court of Australia disagreed, ruling in favour of the Chinese state-owned company on Friday, saying Mineralogy’s claims had failed “for a litany of reasons”.
Justice James Edelman said Mineralogy had confirmed in 2010 – after CITIC had spent $6 billion on the Sino Iron project – that it didn’t plan to get involved in the operations, but in 2012 “changed its mind”.
Justice Edelman was critical of Mineralogy’s “constantly shifting” case – with the company even seeking to amend four of its five grounds of relief on the final day of trial.
“When there are billions of dollars at stake there can sometimes be an unfortunate tendency to attempt to raise any and every issue that might be thought to be arguable,” he said.
Justice Edelman lamented that the companies remained embroiled in other court disputes, saying the litigation might last for years and consume many more millions of dollars in legal fees.
Mineralogy declared it would not back down despite CITIC’s resounding win, saying it will appeal the decision and is confident of success.
“Mineralogy is considering issuing further termination notices for continuing breaches by Citic Limited at Cape Preston,” the company said.
“Justice will prevail.”
A CITIC spokesman said the company was pleased with Justice Edelman’s decision.
“Having made such a significant investment in mining, processing and export infrastructure, we’ve always been focused on ensuring continuous operations and seeing the project reach its full potential,” the spokesman said.