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CITIC says planned expansion at Sino-Iron hinges on Palmer's backing

China's CITIC Ltd. has not been able to get key government approvals to expand the footprint of its US$10 billion Sino-Iron mine in Western Australia, as Mineralogy Pty. Ltd.'s Clive Palmer refuses to endorse the planned expansion, The Australian reported Jan. 20.

CITIC wants to acquire more space at the port to accommodate growing volumes of magnetite concentrate stockpiles and tailings. The Sino-Iron port has the capacity to accommodate up to 2 million tonnes of stockpiles, and CITIC seeks more land to expand the storage to 3 million tonnes, something Palmer has not allowed to happen. This, in turn, has held up important government approvals for the expansion.

CITIC's lawyer Charles Scerri went as far as to say, "That means the project will come to an end this year."

Palmer's refusal comes despite the Supreme Court in Western Australia awarding Mineralogy an interim royalty payment of US$29.8 million with the condition that the latter will support ongoing Sino-Iron operations.

Scerri said an earlier court ruling, to which the Chinese giant is also considering an appeal, could have "serious implications" for the Chinese company and the Sino-Iron project. The court awarded interim royalty payments of up to US$40.5 million to Palmer in the ruling.

Mineralogy's lawyer, Thomas Bradley, said the company does not see why there is a need for an expansion at the stockpiles, referring to an expert's report that stated the existing port area is able to accommodate up to 3.9 million tonnes.

This latest dispute is part of the larger fight between the parties over the project's royalties, worth millions of dollars, payable to Palmer.

In November 2015, the Supreme Court in Western Australia threw out Palmer's A$10 billion lawsuit against CITIC over the Sino-Iron project.