Rio Tinto implied in liability for Hancock’s Hope Downs royalties

The Hope Downs legal saga continues to drag on, with Rio Tinto now at risk of liability for damages in the event that the courts find in favour of Wright Prospecting.

Last week the respondent Hancock Prospecting won a ruling in the Supreme Court which will bind Rio Tinto in liability for a portion of the damages if claimed against the Gina Rinehart-owned company.

“Hancock Prospecting claim that if (it) is liable to Wright Prospecting in the original proceedings in the respect stated, then Hamersley (Iron) is responsible for that liability or a proportion of it,” Justice Rene Le Miere said.

Hamersley Iron has been ordered to supply documents or recordings with Wright Prospecting from between 2005 and 2010 that pertain to the disputed Hope Downs tenements.

Hamersley Iron has previously argued that trying to locate such documents would be like trying to find a needle in a haystack, however Justice Le Miere said the application was related to reasonable searches.

 "In my opinion that qualification removes the force of Hamersley's 'needle in a haystack' object," Le Miere said.

Hamersley Iron has been given until May 2 to comply with the court’s order, while the trial to determine the royalty and ownership dispute will be held in November.

The West Australian reported that it was expected the claim would run into billions of dollars if successful.

Wright Prospecting has claimed it is owed half of the 50 per cent stake in Hope Downs 4 owned by Hancock Prospecting, as well as royalties from Hope Downs 1.

The other claimant, DFD Rhodes, has claimed entitlements to a 1.25 per cent stake in royalties from Hope Downs production.

Rinehart and the Wright Family have been in dispute with Rio Tinto for more than 20 years, dating back to the 1970 agreement about the Channar and Eastern Range mines.

Both families won a $200 million lawsuit against Rio Tinto in 2013 over the rights to royalties for deposits discovered by Lang Hancock and Peter Wright.

Gina Rinehart recently lost her title as Australia's richest person, deposed by American heiress Blair Parry-Oakden.

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