The head of the local resource arm of French banking giant BNP Paribas says recent iron ore price volatility has forced miners to reconsider going it alone on massive rail projects, and predicts a greater willingness to share infrastructure.
Chris Ruffa, managing director of BNP's Australian natural resources and energy division, made the comments in an interview with _WestBusiness _, to mark the expansion of its Perth mining practice this week.
"With volatility in commodity prices, companies are looking at ways of reducing their fixed costs and sharing risk when it comes to infrastructure," he said.
"And that reflects the capital intensive nature of that sector.
"I think the obstacle in the past has been a heightened sense of maintaining control and access and we are now seeing ways that miners can navigate those issues and provide the right level of control but deliver the economic savings that flow from that (sharing infrastructure)."
Mr Ruffa made it clear that he was not commenting on specific cases such as Fortescue Metals' bid to sell a minority stake in its rail network, or rumoured tie-ups between Gina Rinehart's Roy Hill mine and juniors pushing hard to export ore to China.
But he said there was also a big opportunity for miners to bring superannuation and institutional investors on board to help fund the costly but long-lived assets to help spread their risk.
"There is a cost of capital arbitrage (opportunity) given that I think there is a pool of liquidity for those types of investments that can potentially deliver a better price than your typical investors in mining projects," he said.
The French financier is rumoured to be in the lead, along with National Australia Bank, to provide debt funding for Mrs Rinehart's Roy Hill project, although Mr Ruffa declined to comment on talk a deal will be announced next week.
BNP's new head of metals and mining in Perth, Olivier Smeets said the bank had been in WA for 40 years.Along with new director Adrian Stone, Mr Smeets said BNP's Perth arm now also had significant experience in Africa, given their backgrounds, plus access to BNP's global network. This would help many WA miners looking to expand overseas, he said.
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