Aquila, Vale reach temporary agreement

THE icy relationship between Isaac Plains joint venture partners Vale and Aquila Resources appears to be thawing after a short-term agreement was reached to restore coal shipments from the Queensland mine.
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Aquila Resources' Isaac Plains coal mine.

Lauren Barrett

The agreement will allow normal shipments from the Isaac Plains to resume after a dispute involving the arrangement to move coal from the mine to the port caused shipments to be cancelled and stockpiles at the mine to reach capacity.

Vale and Aquila had reached an impasse over marketing rights for coal from the mine in May which allowed the first shipment of coking coal from the Queensland mine.

The new agreement between the partners will end on March 31, 2012.

While Aquila said in a statement “the agreement effectively puts aside the difference of opinion between them regarding the ability to make separate shipments of coal from the Isaac Plains”, an Aquila spokesman told ILN the joint venture relationship was uncertain after the short-term agreement ended.

“If we get to March and no one’s agreed on anything else than technically this falls over and it’s open for [Vale] to behave the same way again,” the spokesman said.

Vale agreed to allow the single shipment from Isaac Plains after Aquila subsidiary IP Coal initiated court proceedings and as the mine’s stockpiling capacity approached full capacity.

Although a small number of separate deliveries had been made on an “ad-hoc” basis to service some separate sales contracts, Vale sought in early May to prevent further separate deliveries proceeding if agreement between the parties could not be reached.

Aquila could not reveal the terms of the new agreement, but the spokesman said it detailed specified guidelines for shipping.

“A lot of this is about detailed mechanics of the practicalities of moving coal individually when the mine is jointly owned, and from our point of view it should have never really come to this,” the spokesman said.

“At least now we have a situation where we’re not at threat of any adverse consequences if we do ship our coal.”

About 200,000 tonnes of coking coal exports have been lost because of the dispute between the joint venture partners.

Vale could not be contacted for comment before going to press.