Pilbara railway access dispute routed to court

Fortescue Metals Group has increased efforts to prevent one of its Pilbara neighbours from winning access to its railway, taking the matter to the Supreme Court of Western Australia.

Fortescue Metals Group has increased efforts to prevent one of its Pilbara neighbours from winning access to its railway, taking the matter to the Supreme Court of Western Australia.

Fortescue has spent the past five months jousting with Brockman Mining, which has sought permission to export iron ore along Fortescue's railway under third-party access laws.

Western Australia's economic regulator recently gave the two companies a price range within which to negotiate a fair price for rail access, but Fortescue has refused to negotiate, and announced on Monday it would instead challenge the price range in the Supreme Court.

The court action has been officially lodged by Fortescue's wholly owned subsidiary The Pilbara Infrastructure, which holds the port and rail assets.

The court action will not stop at debating the price range, with Fortescue also set to challenge Brockman's right to even launch a claim for access.

Fortescue has long accused the junior miner of being ill-equipped to develop its iron ore mine, and it claimed on Monday that Brockman would struggle to pay its way onto the line. "The Pilbara Infrastructure cannot be expected to subsidise third-party projects that are uneconomic," Fortescue company secretary Mark Thomas said.

Fortescue spent much of its first decade in the courts unsuccessfully seeking access to the Pilbara railways of BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto.

The iron ore exporter insists its stance against Brockman's proposal is not hypocritical, stressing it is "actively negotiating" with "other potential third parties that have commercially viable projects".

A spokeswoman for Brockman said the court bid was not unexpected. "The matters will now be resolved before the Supreme Court in the usual manner and we are prepared to defend our access proposal," she said.

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