Atlas Iron says the Western Australian government has indicated it could soften its stance on rights to undeveloped Port Hedland port capacity, adding intrigue to the stand-off between Gina Rinehart and Andrew Forrest.
The WA government has said the potentially valuable Pilbara port – in which an Atlas joint venture has a stake – is set aside for junior miners, potentially placing an obstacle to Ms Rinehart’s $390 million takeover attempt or any interest by rival shareholder Fortescue.
However, Atlas on Thursday says it “notes media comments attributed to the Western Australian premier Mark McGowan (that) indicate that the state government has not ruled out a compromise on its ‘junior miner’ policy if an iron ore major emerges as an owner of Atlas”.
The undeveloped Port Hedland facility, capable of handling 50 million tonnes of exports each year, appears to be the main focus of the two industry heavyweights.
Ms Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting emerged last week as the winner of a battle for Atlas, trumping a bid by mid-tier player Mineral Resources.
Mr Forrest’s intensions remain unclear, but Fortescue this week accused the bid by a Hancock subsidiary of containing misleading statements and omissions.
Mineral Resources mounted the first offer for Atlas in April with a $280 million bid, before Fortescue and Hancock each picked up a near-20 per cent stake in the iron ore company.