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Junior miners win limited access to Pilbara rail network

by samc last modified Jul 01, 2010 01:44 PM

Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton will be forced to allow junior miners access to two key parts of their respective iron ore haulage tracks in the Pilbara.

Junior miners win limited access to Pilbara rail network

Access plan: Tribunal finding protects Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton's main iron ore arteries, but opens up access to other lines (Photo: Rio Tinto)

The Australian Competition Tribunal determined yesterday that Rio's Robe River line and BHP's Goldsworthy line would be opened to third parties.

However, the tribunal backed federal treasurer Wayne Swan's decision to allow Rio and BHP to block similar access to its Hamersley and Mount Newman rail infrastructure.

That finding is a blow to Fortescue Metals Group's hopes of accessing the Mt Newman track for its booming iron ore exports.

Fortescue has signalled a plan to appeal the decision in the Federal Court.

The tribunal said opening up the Robe River and Goldsworthy infrastructure would be less disruptive than granting access to the other more heavily-populated lines feeding the port of Dampier and Port Hedland while opening the Hamersley line to other exporters would be contrary to the public interest.

Rio's iron ore chief executive Sam Walsh welcomed the protection of the company's major rail artery.

“The tribunal accepted our longstanding argument that rail flexibility was necessary to meet mine and port scheduling requirements and that access would cause significant delays in any expansion projects or innovations, which Rio Tinto wishes to undertake," Mr Walsh said.

BHP iron ore president Ian Ashby, while also supportive of the findings, said there was disappointment about the decision to grant access to its Goldsworthy infrastructure.

“It is not in the public interest that our business or customers should be disadvantaged through the increased inefficiencies and costs that will result from other companies operating their trains on our rail lines,” Mr Ashby said.

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