Tinkler in royalty battle with old friend

Mining magnate Nathan Tinkler is locked in a royalties battle with former business partner Matthew Higgins over payments from the coal tenement that first made them millionaires.

Tinkler and Higgins originally made their fortune by putting down a $1 million deposit on a neglected coal site at Middlemount in central Queensland, which was worth around $30 million at the time.

The pair then sold the asset a year later to Macarthur Coal for $65 million in cash and shares worth up to $210 million, Fairfax Media reports.

A royalty deal was also set up to deliver $1 for every tonne of coal mined to a new company called Oceltip, and it’s this agreement that’s now the subject of a legal battle.

According to Fairfax Media Higgins is seeking access to Oceltip’s records because he fears some of the royalty payments are being directed to Tinkler’s private companies.

Tinkler is also alleged to be looking to sell the royalty payment for a one-off sum that could be worth around $28 million.

In legal correspondence to the Tinkler camp Higgins’s solicitor, David Schwarz, said it appeared Tinkler had taken a sizeable chunk of funds out of Oceltip.

''It is evident from a review of the documents, so far produced by you, that a substantial portion of the royalty payments made to date by Middlemount Coal and Ribfield have been diverted from Oceltip, at your instigation or at the instigation of persons on your behalf,'' he said.

In response Tinkler’s right-hand man Troy Palmer said it was clear both men “do not respect each other” and did not want to continue to deal with each other in respect to Oceltip.

As the mining boom slows down and commodity prices soften, a number of Tinkler’s private companies are facing receivership or financial stress.

Earlier this month the magnate had his private jet and helicopter seized, and yesterday the Australian Tax Office took charge of efforts to wind up Tinkler’s Aston Copper and Queens St Capital.

Image: The Richest

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