Thursday, January 31, 2013

Forrest loses land stoush - The West Australian WHEN IT COMES BACK TO BITE YOU ON THE BUM.

Forrest loses land stoush - The West Australian:
Fortescue Metals Group chairman Andrew Forrest faces the prospect of other miners moving in on his ancestral land, after the mining magnate lost the latest round of a running fight to prevent a sand mining company operating on his family cattle station.

After a two-year battle in the Warden's Court, which hears disputes about the grant of mining and exploration leases, Magistrate Stephen Wilson recommended Mines Minister Norman Moore approve the grant of two mining leases on Mr Forrest's Minderoo Station.


  1. Economic spending is reaching levels typically seen before major financial crises, prompting warnings the over-investment could lead to a significant economic correction.

    And Australia, as a major commodities exporter, could be one of the most at risk, according to a new report from credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s.

    S&P singled out China as the biggest risk factor. The world’s second largest economy has the highest investment-to-GDP ratio in the world, but a post-financial crisis stimulus binge has meant much of the spending had been done inefficiently.

    While economic investment is typically a healthy thing, over-investment had created an ‘‘overhang’’ in a number of countries, including China.


    As returns on investment diminish, rational investors pull out, sparking a downturn in the economy.

    The severity of the dip depends on the magnitude and speed at which investors retreated – with the global financial crisis a case in point.


    China was the only country identified by S&P at ‘‘high risk’’ of an economic correction due to over-investment.

    But Australia was in a group of eight countries – including fellow commodities exporters Brazil, Canada and India – considered next most at risk.


    Big rise in Perth house prices

    Growing confidence in the WA economy has helped underpin a surge in Perth house prices, which are tipped to return to record highs within months.

    Perth's median house price rose 2.5 per cent in the December quarter and 6.1 per cent for the year, according to an Australian Property Monitors report out today.

    The growth outstripped every other capital except Darwin and was well above the national increase of 1.9 per cent for the quarter and 2.1 per cent for the year.

    APM senior economist Andrew Wilson said Perth house prices were less than 2 per cent below their 2010 all-time highs and on track to return to record levels, potentially in the March quarter.

    "They're big numbers. Certainly Perth is on the march," Mr Wilson said.

    Factors driving the surge included optimism about the economy, interest rate cuts and a tight rental market that sent prices skyward.


    "We're also getting more positive news on the outlook for mining, the international economy is improving and we've got a rising stock market.

    "So really, the only way is up, I think, for the Perth housing market this year."


    The APM report says the stratified median house price in Perth rose from $547,160 in the September quarter to $560,780 in the December quarter.

    The median unit price was also up sharply - 3.4 per cent for the quarter from $352,961 to $365,132 - and 6 per cent for the year.
    Nationally all capital cities recorded house price increases in the December quarter for the first time in nearly three years.

  2. From the Australian :

    Andrew Forrest faces hardened foe in bid to shield pastoral land

    ANDREW Forrest's battle to keep miners and explorers off his ancestral pastoral station will see him lock horns with a group boasting a track record of success in protracted land disputes.

    Yarri has a history of becoming embroiled in long-running court cases over land disputes, with the company having spent four years fighting Australian Securities Exchange-listed junior Energy and Minerals Australia over the Mulga Rocks uranium deposit.

    According to the Australian Securities & Investments Commission, the only shareholder of Yarri -- whose only director is former prospector Warren Slater -- is Singapore-based Euro Resources. Euro paid $1 in March last year to purchase the two shares that make up Yarri, and replaced Onslow Resources on the register. Mr Slater is also a director of Onslow, another private company.

    Yarri is understood to be eyeing the potential to mine sand at Minderoo and sell the product into the massive liquefied natural gas developments being developed nearby.

    Industry sources said such an operation was likely to have a price advantage over other competitors, given its proximity to the LNG development sites.

    (would be cheaper than the sand Linfox trucked up here)

    Representatives of Mr Forrest, whose Fortescue Metals has grown into one of the nation's biggest mining companies on the back of mining and exploration rights obtained over numerous pastoral leases in the Pilbara....


    "Forrest & Forrest is disappointed at the Warden's decision to allow sandmining by Yarri Mining within the historical and environmentally fragile parts of Minderoo pastoral station," a spokesman for Mr Forrest said.

    One Perth-based mining lawyer, not involved in the case, said the decision to reject Forrest's case was "routine".

    The vast pastoral stations of WA cover many of the state's most mineral-rich areas.

    But the mineral rights belong to the Crown and leave pastoralists little room to object to licence applications.


  3. Twiggy gets his man.

    FORTESCUE Metals Group has elevated one of its most senior executives, Isak Buitendag, to the plum role of director of external relations, replacing the well-connected Deidre Willmott, who finished at the miner's Perth headquarters yesterday.

    But missing from the internal memo announcing the move was any mention of a little-noticed West Australian Supreme Court judgment two months ago that found rival BHP Billiton was correct in sacking Mr Buitendag in 2009 for "serious misconduct".

    Mr Buitendag, who will oversee culture, corporate affairs, Aboriginal engagement, the environment and security at Fortescue, was dismissed by BHP after he donated company property to a shooting club he was settting up with friends when he ran the Ravensthorpe nickel mine.

    Mr Buitendag sued BHP for an estimated $1.6 million in damages for alleged wrongful dismissal, but Justice Rene le Miere in November found that he had breached his contract of employment, misled his boss in relation to the donation of transportable houses and had a conflict of interest. Evidence was given that, when quizzed by BHP over the donation, he said: "I would do it all again because I still don't see the issue."


    After being sacked by BHP in January 2009, Mr Buitendag soon took a job at Fortescue.

    He was initially employed to run the company's Cloud Break operations in March 2009 on a base salary of $400,000, but this was bumped up to $450,000 in July that year and to $500,000 by October 2010.

    Court documents seen by The Weekend Australian also reveal that Mr Buitendag had previously been cautioned by BHP over two other incidents: failing to notice an employee's $10,000 in illegal credit card transactions and understating injury records.

    Mr Buitendag lost his bonus as a result of a BHP audit that found 30 per cent of certain types of injuries were being misclassified at the nickel project.

    According to a transcript of the trial, BHP's then head of stainless steel materials, Jimmy Wilson, said he was unhappy that Mr Buitendag was spending 30 per cent of his time on community-related issues when "Rome was burning" -- a reference to the severe problems being experienced in ramping up the Ravensthorpe nickel plant during 2008.


    The judge ruled Mr Buitendag had a conflict of interest in seeking to donate company property to the club he was establishing.

    "Mr Buitendag was, in effect, acting on both sides of the transaction," he said. "Mr Buitendag held a senior position which required him to exercise significant responsibilities and discretion on behalf of his employer.

    "His conduct was conduct which is likely to, and did, destroy his employer's trust and confidence in him carrying out his responsibilities as general manager of Ravensthorpe Nickel in accordance with his contractual obligations.

    "It justified Ravensthorpe Nickel terminating his employment summarily."

    Fortescue declined to comment.

    Mr Buitendag has appealed.

    1. Just about says it all really.

      "Mr Buitendag, who will oversee culture, corporate affairs, Aboriginal engagement, the environment and security at Fortescue.."


    BHP talked up Ravensthorpe mine even after it decided to close it down

    TO a privileged few inside BHP Billiton, it was known for months by the ominous secret codename "Project Slate".

    But when it was finally announced to the market and 1800 devastated workers in January 2009, the closure of the Ravensthorpe nickel mine simply became known as one of Australia's worst corporate disasters.

    BHP opened the project in May 2008 and shut it down just eight months later amid a slump in nickel prices and severe technical problems, at a cost to shareholders of $US3.7 billion.

    Chief executive Marius Kloppers, who was not at the helm when BHP decided to proceed with Ravensthorpe, described the project as "probably not our finest investment decision".

    The Weekend Australian can now reveal that senior BHP executives including current iron ore boss Jimmy Wilson, who was then in charge of Ravensthorpe -- knew the closure was virtually inevitable from mid-2008 and had even christened the confidential shutdown task "Project Slate".


    But what still rankles in Ravensthorpe is that in the weeks and months leading up to the announcement, BHP continued to encourage people to move to the area to take jobs on the mine and set up local businesses that it promised would be supported by the 30-year life of the mine.

    "There were people who had arrived in town from overseas the day before the announcement and who hadn't even unpacked," former Ravensthorpe shire president Brenda Tilbrook said yesterday. "The rumours started around September that BHP was going to close the mine, but they always denied it. Their commitment was to BHP, not to the local community."


    Documents lodged in the WA Supreme Court show Mr Wilson believed that even in early 2008 the planned ramp-up of operations was "struggling".

    By the middle of 2008, just a few months after then chairman Don Argus had opened the mine, the possibility of walking away from the project was being studied.

    As the nickel price deteriorated and BHP's technical problems worsened, Project Slate was put into action.

    "It (closing the mine) was a very serious consideration from September/October," Mr Wilson told the WA Supreme Court last year, as part of an unfair dismissal case brought by the mine's general manager, Isak Buitendag.

    "The board needed to accept that motivation before it became reality in any way.

    "Of course, this would be an ASX announceable event the minute that decision was made."

    Mr Buitendag was told of Project Slate on December 9 -- six weeks before closure -- but he was unable to tell his colleagues or friends in the local community after signing a confidentiality agreement.

    The mine's commercial manager, Sails Gordon, was also told on December 9 in order to allow BHP to slow down its rate of local spending in the lead-up to the closure.

    According to documents seen by The Weekend Australian, Mr Wilson said in a memo tendered as evidence that in 2008 he believed the mine would take five years to produce positive cashflow and it was in "deep trouble".

    Mr Buitendag said the Ravensthorpe plant had "severe problems" with its design and construction from as early as 2007, and had not recovered by the time it closed.