WICET coal loader

Photo Contributed
WICET coal loader Photo Contributed Contributed

Miners told to pay rail giant’s court costs

A GROUP of coal miners who initiated a failed multimillion-dollar court battle against Aurizon has been ordered to pay more than half of the rail giant's court costs.

In June the Supreme Court of Queensland upheld Aurizon's decision to charge above regulatory fees for the construction of the $900-million Wiggins Island Rail Project, an upgraded rail link to the Gladstone port, in 2015.

The dispute started in March 2016 after the miners using Wiggins Island Coal Export Terminal tried to reduce their fees to Aurizon.

A financing deal for the project, WIRP Deeds, was signed by Aurizon and the eight miners at the height of the coal boom in 2011.

But Aurizon has not received any repayments, because in 2015 when construction was completed on the rail loop, the company received notices from seven of the eight terminal owners claiming they had a right to reduce their financial exposure. Unable to reach a new agreement with the seven miners, including Glencore, Aurizon took the matter to the Supreme Court of Queensland.

Following the court's ruling in favour of Aurizon earlier this year, Justice David Jackson last week ruled the defendants (Glencore, Caledon Coal, Yarrabee Coal, Wesfarmers Curragh, Washpool Coal and Colton Coal) pay 65 per cent of Aurizon's proceeding costs.

But an end is still not in sight for the dispute, with an appeal against the decision earlier this year ongoing.

Judge Jackson said the circumstances of the case, where Aurizon did not successfully argue all points of its own case, meant the defendants should not pay all of Aurizon's costs.

"In my view, the circumstances of the case do warrant an order that the defendants pay at the least some of the plaintiff's costs of the proceeding because success by the plaintiff on any one of the three issues meant success in the proceeding as a whole," he said.

Aurizon estimated in October 2015 that non-payments on the deeds could cost the company up to $27 million every year for 20 years.

The court estimated at September 30, 2015, the eight miners that originally signed the deal would have been required to pay about $482 million to Aurizon over 20 years.

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