Junior iron ore miners in the Pilbara have reacted angrily to comments from BHP Billiton that it intends to stand firm in its opposition to third party rail access.
President of BHP Billiton Iron Ore Ian Ashby said at the Diggers and Dealers conference that the company’s opposition to third-party access had not changed, arguing its facilities were operating at full capacity.
Major iron ore producers BHP and Rio Tinto have long been reluctant to share rail facilities in the Pilbara.
According to Atlas Iron managing director David Flanagan, BHP’s opposition to third party rail access hurts Western Australia’s growth.
“I think it is actually really sad that the world’s biggest mining company would take such an obstructionist view on infrastructure which was built with a view to opening up a region and creating wealth for Western Australia,” Flanagan told journalists.
“It is a tragedy.”
BC Iron managing director Mike Young agrees that the rail needs to be opened to other parties, saying he is “staggered” by BHP’s hard line stance.
“I am just surprised that they are not trying to work with these companies,” he said.
Junior iron ore miners point to the fact that under BHP and Rio Tinto’s State Agreements, they are obliged to haul third-party ore, but both miners have long argued the rule only applies where spare capacity exists which, they say, it does not.
Ashby said that given the rail was running at full capacity arguments over the State Agreements are “a moot point.”