March 01, 2011 12:00AM
By Andrew Burrell From The Australian
In a statement released to the Australian Securities Exchange last week, Mr Forrest said Perth-based BC Iron had become the first miner with a stranded deposit to have its iron ore transported using another company's railway in the Pilbara. The ore came from the Nullagine project, a 50:50 joint venture between BC Iron and Fortescue, and was carried to Port Hedland using Fortescue's railway.
Mr Forrest hailed the move as "historic", saying it would prove to Rio and BHP Billiton that third-party access was possible despite their objections over many years.
"The final stake has been put into that lie," he said.
The comments angered Rio executives, who say Mr Forrest and BC Iron chief executive Mike Young were ignoring the fact that Rio's Hope Downs joint venture with Gina Rinehart's Hancock Prospecting had been producing and transporting iron ore for the past three years.
"Congratulations to Mike Young and BC Iron, but Andrew Forrest should know better. In fact, he does know better," a Rio spokesman said.
"Perhaps it simply slipped the minds of both men that Hancock Prospecting's iron ore has been routinely travelling on Rio Tinto's railways ever since December 2007. In fairness, it was a long time ago.
"I'm not surprised Andrew Forrest defines Hope Downs ore as not fitting his idea of what constitutes third-party ore, but he's just plain factually wrong. "Twenty six times a week, a train loaded with about 24,000 tonnes of iron ore leaves that mine, and that ore is not owned by Rio Tinto.
"It is owned by the Hope Downs JV, and it is marketed and sold as such. We are entitled to half of the proceeds, as is Hancock Prospecting."
A spokesman for Mr Forrest said he stood by the statements, saying the Nullagine JV operated differently to Hope Downs.
He said Rio had management control of the Hope Downs JV and once the ore left the mine it lost the Hope Downs "badge".
Tags : iron ore, steel mills, China, Australian Securities Exchange