The most senior Chinese official to visit the barren Oakajee port site since the $6 billion venture hit a funding brick wall says the Middle Kingdom is frustrated that its many iron ore mines in the Mid West have been stranded by the project’s delay.
However, it remains unclear when or if talks between the Chinese state-backed mining companies and Japan’s Mitsubishi, which lost its exclusive right to develop the port last December, will be resolved.
Consul general Wang Yiner said her country was keen to expand investment in the Mid West, but it remained concerned by delays to Oakajee.
She said China was left frustrated after investing millions in stalled mining projects across the region.
“China is concerned about the progress of the Oakajee project because we have so many mine sites here,” she said.
“We hope this project can be developed as fast as possible.”
Madame Wang remained tight-lipped on negotiations with Mitsubishi, saying the Chinese Government did not want to get in the way of what was meant to be a business deal between Australian and Chinese companies.
China Australia Business Council WA president Duncan Calder said challenges with the Oakajee development were big but could still be addressed.
“Oakajee is planned to be a JV based or multi-user facility. That presents a significant financing challenge for a large port development when initial users will only utilise a portion of the final port capacity,” he said.
“One view amongst some Chinese stakeholders is the current structure of having a link between mine owner and infrastructure provider can be problematic if different investor groups want to take equity in one but not the other,” he said.Mr Calder criticised sensationalised over-egged media reports about Chinese investment in Australia, citing recent statistics that show China remains one of the smallest direct foreign investors in the country. He said iron ore deposits in the Mid West continued to take time to prove up and needed to be fleshed out.
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