Vale loses Belvedere court challenge

VALE’s push to pay less than $US100 million for Aquila Resources’ 24.5% stake of the $2 billion-plus Belvedere hard coking coal project has been setback after a Queensland Supreme Court ruling yesterday.
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Drilling at Belvedere.

Blair Price

A year ago Vale acquired private resources company AMCI’s 24.5% stake in the project for $92 million.

The Brazilian miner was hoping for a similar deal with Aquila to gain full project ownership after triggering its joint venture option to acquire this stake.

Both Vale and Aquila commissioned independent valuers to determine a fair price for Aquila’s stake of the project, however, both valuations differed by more than 10%.

Under the Belvedere JV agreement, a “determining valuer” must be appointed to ultimately decide a fair price in this scenario.

The only exception to this was if there was a case of “manifest error” during the valuation process.

Vale decided to take Aquila to court, on the grounds that the valuation commissioned by Aquila, made by RBC Capital Markets, was inaccurate.

Ultimately the court struck out Vale’s statement of claim, as it found no evidence of “manifest error”.

Judge McMurdo said such an error would be apparent, “without the need for any substantial factual enquiry, but also because it could be promptly corrected”.

Both JV parties could soon work together to appoint a determining valuer to put a price on Aquila’s stake.

Once appointed such a valuer has 20 business days to determine the fair market value of this stake.

While no valuation figures for the Belvedere stake have been revealed, a determining valuer could set a large sum.

Such a valuer will consider other coal deals in Australia, possibly including the $A480 million cash Aston paid for the Maules Creek project in the Gunnedah Basin of New South Wales.

The prefeasibility study last year revealed that Belvedere could a host an underground mine life of at least 30 years, outside of possible extension opportunities.

This study confirmed the viability of a 3.5 million tonne per annum coking coal operation, with first coal in 2016 and the opportunity to start up a second longwall in 2020 to lift output to 7Mtpa.

Located immediately downdip of Anglo American’s surface coal Dawson mine in the Bowen Basin, the Belvedere project hosts 3.87 billion tonnes of resources, including 1.53Bt indicated and 2.34Bt inferred.

Vale and Aquila have had other JV disagreements in relation to the Eagle Downs coking coal project and the Isaac Plains open cut coal mine they share on a 50:50 basis.

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