Cauldron claims win in Forrest fight

Nick Evans
Andrew Forrest on horseback at Minderoo. Picture: Ron D'Raine.

Tony Sage's Cauldron Energy is free to push ahead with plans to drill for uranium on Andrew Forrest's family cattle station near Onslow after Mines Minister Bill Marmion handed the explorer a win in the company's 30-month fight with the Fortescue Metals Group billionaire.

Mr Marmion this week elected to disregard a February 2014 recommendation by Mining Warden Kevin Tavener that he should reject Cauldron's 2012 application for three exploration licences covering parts of Minderoo.

Mr Tavener's decision was based on Cauldron's low cash position a year ago, when the matter was heard.

The implications that explorers needed to be fully cashed up for exploration programs before applying for tenements caused widespread concerns among other junior miners, which have traditionally only been able to raise capital on the back of their tenement position.

Mr Marmion's decision means Cauldron can push ahead with the licence applications. It will need to outline its proposed program of work on the tenements, and win agreement from Native Title holders, before the tenements can be formally granted.

Mr Sage yesterday welcomed the decision, saying the Warden's ruling could have thrown exploration in WA into "disarray" had it been upheld.

But it is understood Cauldron does not believe its costly legal fight has ended because Mr Forrest will be able to file for a judicial review of any formal decision to grant the tenements.

It is Mr Forrest's second setback at Minderoo in recent months, after Mr Tavener last year recommended the rejection of tenement applications made by a company owned by a Forrest family friend.

A spokeswoman for Mr Forrest's Minderoo Group said it was disappointed in the decision to allow exploration within "historical and environmentally fragile parts of Minderoo station".