Rio Tinto has scored a win in the long-running legal battle with Fortescue Metals, which is fighting for access to its rail lines in the Pilbara, on competition grounds.
After an appeal that went to the High Court last year, the Australian Competition Tribunal this morning handed down a decision that Rio Tinto did not have to open up its Hamersley and Robe rail lines to other users.
Rio Tinto’s acting chief executive for iron ore Paul Shannon - filling in for now-chief executive Sam Walsh, elevated after last month’s shock dismissal of former chief Tom Albanese - said the decision was “great news’’.
‘‘Rio Tinto runs a highly efficient railway that is fully integrated with our port and mine operations,’’ Mr Shannon said. ‘‘This would be severely hindered if third parties were allowed to run trains on our rail network, not to mention the knock-on negative effect on the Western Australian and national economies from creating such inefficiencies.”
Shares in Rio Tinto - which reports its full-year profit on Thursday - fell 0.8 per cent to $69.07 this morning, but had trimmed some of the losses by midday to be down just 0.2 per cent, while shares in Fortescue rose 1.4 per cent to $5.00, suggesting the market was not focused on the rail access decision.
One mining analyst, speaking off the record, said Rio had been expected to win the case, as the rail lines were undoubtedly part of its integrated supply chain for iron ore from the Pilbara and the company got significant cost savings from rail-as-you-go.
The Tribunal’s decision could well mark the end of the long legal dispute, he said. ‘‘There could be another appeal, but how many can you go through? The appeals are on questionable grounds anyway.’’
Fortescue was yet to comment on the Tribunal's decision this morning.