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Atlas Iron's shares fall 18.2% on loss of priority over Port Hedland berths

Atlas Iron Ltd.'s shares fell 18.2% on June 14 after it disclosed it received a notice from the office of the Minister for Transport, Planning and Lands that implied that its North West Infrastructure joint venture did not have priority to develop Stanley Point Berths three and four at Port Hedland in Western Australia.

According to the explorer's same-day statement, the minister confirmed that the Stanley Point Berths three and four are reserved for junior miners. In addition, the minister advised that the Pilbara Ports Authority will assess any application by the North West Infrastructure consortium to develop the berths.

Atlas is a founding member of the North West Iron Ore Alliance. In 2009, the alliance was conferred a 50 million-tonne-per-annum channel capacity allocation to facilitate the development of a stockyard and two berth facilities in Stanley Point within the Port Hedland inner harbor.

This follows the acquisition by Gina Rinehart's Hancock Prospecting Pty. Ltd. of a 19.6% stake in Atlas Iron just a week after Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. snapped up a 19.9% share.

Australian analysts recently told S&P Global Market Intelligence that they were surprised by Fortescue's move but agreed that it was a smart play to keep low-grade iron ore competitor Mineral Resources Ltd. in check while effectively laying down "working capital" for growth options in lithium and base metals.

Atlas Iron is undergoing an all-scrip merger with Mineral Resources under which Atlas shareholders will receive 1 Mineral Resources share for every 571 shares held.