Citic Pacific Wins Bid to Move Palmer Royalty Fight to WA

Citic Pacific Ltd. won a court order to move Australian mining magnate Clive Palmer’s lawsuit over royalties from Sydney to Perth, Western Australia, home to the property in the dispute.

Palmer’s Mineralogy Pty sued Citic’s Sino Iron unit in state court in Sydney, capital of New South Wales state, claiming it was owed A$200 million ($207 million) in royalties from a Citic mine being built on his property in Western Australia’s Pilbara region. A judge said the dispute had no connection to New South Wales, in explaining the ruling today.

Palmer urged the judge to let the lawsuit proceed in Sydney, saying it was necessary to resolve the dispute quickly and New South Wales courts could deal with the issue more speedily, according to an affidavit cited by Justice James Stevenson at a hearing in Sydney.

“I’m not able to say if the matter can be heard more quickly here,” Stevenson said in a ruling from the bench. “Every other factor indicates it would be in the interest of justice to have the proceedings transferred.”

The royalty dispute is one of at least three lawsuits involving Mineralogy and Citic Pacific, which is building the biggest magnetite iron ore project in Australia.

The mine has been beset by a budget that swelled by almost four times the initial amount and wrong currency bets costing HK$14.6 billion ($1.9 billion) in 2008.

The $8 billion mine wouldn’t make its first shipment of iron ore concentrate until the second half of May as production was hampered by technical issues, Citic said April 19. The facility was originally scheduled to begin output in the first half of 2011.

Stock Moves

Citic rose 0.5 percent to HK$9.39 as of 11:20 a.m. in Hong Kong trading, paring its loss this year to 19 percent. The city’s Hang Seng Index has advanced 0.3 percent in 2013.

Palmer sought to terminate Citic’s mining rights and site-lease agreements in a Supreme Court of Western Australia lawsuit, claiming it failed to pay a separate royalty on production. Supreme Court of Western Australia Justice James Edelman reserved his decision after a one-day trial on April 23.

Western Australian courts have proven cases can be heard quickly, said Charles Scerri, Citic’s lawyer. The dispute over the mining rights was heard less than a year after Palmer filed his complaint in Perth, Scerri said.

While justice is served “wherever you go in Australia,” evidence indicates New South Wales courts would provide a quicker hearing than Western Australian ones, Palmer said outside the Sydney court after today’s hearing. “Justice delayed would be justice denied.”

The New South Wales case is Mineralogy Pty v Sino Rion Pty. 2013/82818. Supreme Court of New South Wales (Sydney). The Western Australia case is Mineralogy Pty v Sino Iron Pty. CIV 2338/2012, Supreme Court of Western Australia (Perth).

(Updates share price in eighth paragraph.)
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