MELBOURNE Feb 11 Rio Tinto said on Monday an Australian regulator has ruled that the firm's key iron ore rail lines do not have to be opened to rival miners, reinforcing the world No.2 iron ore miner's grip on the global market.
The fresh ruling by the Australian Competition Tribunal marked the latest in a long-running attempt by rival Fortescue Metals Group to force Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton to open their rail lines.
"This is great news," Rio Tinto's acting iron ore chief Paul Shannon said in a statement on Monday.
The mega miners have argued that their rail networks are integral parts of their highly efficient mine, rail and port operations and allowing other companies' trains on their lines would hurt their businesses.
The tribunal had previously said Fortescue could use Rio's Robe rail line but not its Hamersley line in a ruling on an appeal by Rio against a 2008 decision by Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan ordering Rio to open both those rail lines and requiring BHP to open its Goldsworthy line.
The case went all the way to the High Court, which last year ordered the Australian Competition Tribunal to rule again on Rio Tinto's appeal against Swan's decision.
Fortescue, which went ahead and built its own multi-billion dollar rail line after failing to win access to the majors' networks, was not immediately available for comment.
The tribunal's decision is due to be publicly released later on Monday.