* Regulator rejects Fortescue arguments against access
* Brockman awaits ruling on Fortescue's access price range
(Adds Brockman comment, detail)
MELBOURNE Aug 14 Fortescue Metals Group's
attempt to avoid being forced to open its rail line to
aspiring iron ore producer Brockman Mining was blocked
by an Australian state regulator on Wednesday.
The Western Australian Economic Regulation Authority
rejected Fortescue's argument that it should not have to talk to
Brockman as the Hong Kong-based firm has not provided evidence
it would be able to fund an iron ore mine.
The watchdog also rejected Fortescue's arguments that giving
access to Brockman could interfere with its own shipments and
that there would not be enough space to grant access to other
iron ore producers who are talking to Fortescue, such as Atlas
Iron and Flinders Mines.
"The Authority approves the commencement of negotiations
with respect to the Access Proposal," the regulator said in a
decision published on its web site.
Brockman is the first miner to test a state code that
requires Fortescue's port and rail arm, The Pilbara
Infrastructure (TPI), to let other miners use its rail line.
Rail access is the biggest hurdle to aspiring iron ore
producers in Western Australia, where giants Rio Tinto
and BHP Billiton have blocked
access to their rail lines and Fortescue has stalled opening its
multi-billion dollar railway.
Brockman, controlled by Hong Kong-based limousine company
Wah Nam International, welcomed the decision, and is now
awaiting the regulator's ruling on Fortescue's proposed floor
and ceiling price for access, due within the next 30 days.
"This is another important step forward in supporting junior
miners to gain access to existing Pilbara infrastructure," said
Brockman external affairs manager Michelle Manook.
Fortescue's TPI arm was not immediately available for
Fortescue is currently trying to sell a minority stake in
TPI for around $3 billion to help pay down debt, hoping to seal
a deal by the end of September, but only if it gets a big enough
(Reporting by Sonali Paul; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman
and Joseph Radford)