Clive Palmer has won the latest round in his running legal battle with China's CITIC Pacific after the Federal Court rejected a bid by CITIC to have his privately owned resource company Mineralogy removed as the security controller of Cape Preston Port.
Yesterday's decision came as CITIC Pacific president Zhang Jijing ramped up criticism of Mr Palmer, who is CITIC's landlord at the Sino Iron magnetite mine in the Pilbara. Mr Palmer has been trying to kick the Hong Kong-listed miner off the project over a bitter royalty payment dispute that he claims has cost him hundreds of millions of dollars.
Mr Zhang told the Melbourne Mining Club yesterday that Chinese investors were watching the dispute closely, and suggested CITIC's great lesson from the Sino Iron experience was that the company should in future choose its partners very carefully.
The Federal Court confirmed CITIC would be forced to continue to deal with Mineralogy as the security controller at Cape Preston.
CITIC was seeking to overturn a decision made by the Department of Infrastructure and Transport in January last year to hand control of maritime security at the port to Mineralogy.
Although the department supported CITIC's application to overturn the decision, Justice Steven Rares ruled the company failed to prove the department had erred in its initial call.
The department's decision was made after the relationship between the two companies had turned toxic.
But Justice Rares said CITIC did not have a right to veto Mineralogy's appointment simply because a dispute existed, or a belief that Mr Palmer's company was reluctant to co-operate.
Mr Palmer welcomed the decision, predicting it would be the "first of many judgments to come our way in the next 12 months".
The dispute had initially prevented CITIC from export- ing concentrate from Cape Preston. But the department's acceptance of a CITIC security plan enabled exports to begin late last year.
A CITIC spokesman said it was reviewing the decision but it had no impact on the company's operations.
"All necessary approvals are in place to allow us to continue to export," he said.