Vale to challenge injunction next week

VALE'S defence to Aquila Resource’s Statement of Claim in the Queensland Supreme Court over the joint development of the Eagle Downs coal project will be mounted next week, its newly appointed director of Australian coal operations Steve Badenhorst said.
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Core sample logging at Eagle Downs. Courtesy Aquila.

Lou Caruana

“Vale is confident that it will be fully vindicated at a full hearing and it will then seek to recover damages from Aquila Resources and Aquila Coal pursuant to their undertaking to the court”, he said in a statement.

Judge Peter Applegarth blocked a management committee meeting between the JV parties later this month, which could have allowed Vale to trigger an option to acquire Aquila’s stake in the project.

“The recent application which led to the judgement was not a full trial and no final findings were made regarding any of Aquila Coal Pty Ltd's allegations,” Badenhorst said.

“Importantly, there was no finding of breach of the joint venture agreement or lack of good faith by Vale.

“There was also no finding that port and rail logistics are an element of the ‘feasibility study’ required by the terms of the joint venture agreement or that the feasibility study prepared by the manager was not in fact a feasibility study as defined in the joint venture agreement.”

Badenhorst warned the action could be costly mistake for Aquila if it was wrong, with Aquila Resources Limited and its subsidiary Aquila Coal required to provide undertakings to pay damages, which could be tens of millions of dollars, if the claims were found to be wrong.

“The application proceeded largely on evidence from Aquila only and even then the judge identified that elements of Aquila’s claim were weak.

“Aquila's repeated engagement in court proceedings is distracting and diverts focus from the real object of the exercise, which is getting the Eagle Downs coal project up and running now that we have the mining lease. Vale will keep working to achieve the earliest possible development time frame.

“Our priority is and has always been to develop mines that create jobs and value. Aquila's choice is to litigate with us across all of our joint ventures, which we think wastes time and money rather than seeing it invested into the projects, Queensland and the economy. We'd rather spend money on mine development than lawyers, but we have to respond to a joint venturer who has chosen this path.”