Vale appeals Eagle Downs decision

BRAZIL’S Vale has left its appeal to win control of the Eagle Downs hard coking coal project in Queensland from its equal joint venture partner Aquila Resources to the final hours after lodging documentation overnight, the last day of the appeal period.
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Core sample logging at Eagle Downs. Courtesy Aquila.

Staff Reporter

Aquila last month won an interlocutory injunction restraining Vale’s wholly owned subsidiary Bowen Central Coal from voting on a resolution proposed by Vale in relation to Eagle Downs.

Aquila Coal was served a notice of appeal by Vale late yesterday for which it intends appealing.

Aquila started legal proceedings over Eagle Downs last year after Vale unexpectedly pulled out of arrangements to secure 4 million tonnes per annum of port and associated rail capacity to export through Abbot Point in 2013.

In the subsequent dispute, Vale favoured developing the project before securing rail and port capacity.

Aquila wanted to secure the project’s logistics before going ahead with development – especially since it needs to win bank financing for its half stake of the $A1.3 billion project.

In the first significant decision over the stalled longwall project, Queensland Supreme Court Judge Peter Applegarth last month found that the study on the Eagle Downs project was not considered to be a “feasibility study” under the terms of the joint venture agreement.

His second decision was to block a management committee meeting between the JV parties, which could have allowed Vale to trigger an option to acquire Aquila’s stake in the project.

Vale is appealing both decisions.

In awarding an injunction over this meeting, Applegarth said it could cause "irreparable harm" to Aquila, while he also found that Vale had not acted in good faith or in the best interests of the JV as required by a clause of the JVA.

Aquila also argued and provided evidence that Vale had held “war council” meetings to find ways to stall progress on Eagle Downs and pressure Aquila into selling its interest in the JV to Vale.

Applegarth said the fact that Vale apparently established a “war council to manage its relationship with Aquila adds some colour to the evidence”

Vale’s board has already approved an $US875 million ($A919 million) commitment to developing the project and the JV recently received a mining lease from the Queensland government.

The Brazilian mining giant said its intention was to seek immediate project management committee approval for its preferred development option for Eagle Downs.

A final hearing for the case is expected before year-end while an associated case over Aquila’s bid to win damages is likely to be heard next year.

Aquila is seeking damages for the expected income from longwall mining at Eagle Downs from 2013 – when the underground mine could have started output by using export capacity through Abbot Point.

While it is unclear when the mine could start production, Aquila has previously indicated that longwall output might not begin until October 2016 due to the limited availability of spare port and rail capacity.

Aquila shares are up 10% this morning to $5.19.

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