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Minerals Council to Meet Australian Government on Mine Tax

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May 11 (Bloomberg) -- The Minerals Council of Australia, whose members produce more than 85 percent of the nation’s output, plan to meet Treasury officials this week for talks on the government’s 40 percent resources profit tax proposal.

“We are happy to consult but tax rates and design have to be on the table,” council spokesman Ben Mitchell said today by phone. The meeting will be held in the Canberra May 13, he said.

Andrew Forrest, Australia’s richest man who controls Fortescue Metals Group Ltd., is heading for the nation’s capital tomorrow as mining companies press the government to water down the tax. The industry makes up 9 percent of the economy.

“Fortescue has always sought to engage in the consultation process, but remains of the opinion this is a badly designed tax that will hurt our international competitiveness,” said Cameron Morse, a spokesman for the Perth-based company. Forrest will meet with the resource tax consultation panel, he said.

Shares of Fortescue, Australia’s third-largest iron ore exporter, rose 0.5 percent to A$4.40 at 11:22 a.m. Sydney time. BHP Billiton Ltd., the world’s biggest mining company, fell 0.5 percent, while Rio Tinto Group fell 0.2 percent.

Xstrata Plc, which today said it had placed all its projects in Australia under review, has met with the government on the tax, spokeswoman Melanie Edgar said by phone.

“The meeting was specifically in relation to Xstrata Copper suspending the exploration program in North West Queensland,” said Edgar. The Zug, Switzerland-based company is looking at “an ongoing dialogue with the government to discuss the options,” she said.

More than 80 companies have registered to be involved in consultation with the government on the tax, Sydney Morning Herald reported, citing Treasurer Wayne Swan. Companies may boycott the process if the government refuses to discuss its merits and design, the paper said, citing industry sources.

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To contact the reporter on this story: Elisabeth Behrmann at ebehrmann1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew Hobbs at ahobbs4@bloomberg.net