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Fortescue dodges shareholder 'strike'

SHAREHOLDERS have lodged a protest vote against the running of Fortescue Metals, with a sharp increase in the number of votes lodged against the company's remuneration report at Wednesday's annual meeting.

But despite a five-fold increase from the year before in the number of votes opposing the remuneration report, executives of the iron ore miner escaped without a formal ''strike'' being registered against the company.

The meeting came on the same day Fortescue development manager Peter Meurs said the company may have been too ambitious with its growth plans.

Fortescue has boasted of its aggressive plan to almost triple exports to 155 million tonnes a year, but that plan almost unravelled in September when the benchmark iron ore price slumped to levels that threatened the company's heavy debt load.

Speaking at a Fairfax Media event in Perth, Mr Meurs conceded those ambitions may have stretched too far, as evidenced by the decision to halt work on one aspect of the expansion plan.

"I think we probably jumped the gun with our expansion," he said.


"We now have a very lean organisation. And we're happy with it … We're not happy some of our great people aren't with us, however."

Mr Meurs predicted iron ore prices would remain steady at current levels of about $US120 a tonne - high enough to let the halted part of the expansion, the Kings project, restart within two months.

Fortescue's neighbour in the Pilbara, Hancock Prospecting, was also conceding that its growth and export plans had proved too ambitious. Spokesman Tad Watroba confirmed speculation the company's Roy Hill iron ore project would start in 2015 rather than 2014, and said $7 billion in funding was being pursued.

BHP's new boss of iron ore also spoke at the Fairfax Media event, saying there remained opportunities to bring down payments to contractors and suppliers.

One iron ore miner poised to deliver on a promise is Gindalbie Metals, which is tipped to produce its first magnetite later this week.

Gindalbie has announced the completion of a long-awaited $250 million debt facility from Chinese banks, which will ensure it has funds to complete its first stage of growth towards exporting 8 million tonnes a year. Gindalbie will front shareholders on Friday in Western Australia.