Minter Ellison was one of the key advisers to BHP Billiton’s Japanese joint venture partners in the $1.6 billion deal to supply Western Australian iron ore to four of China’s largest steel mills.
The firm said the deal — known as the Wheelara Joint Venture — was probably the most important export contract of “recent times” and only the second investment by Chinese steel mills in Australian iron ore.
The 25-year contract involves the export of about 12 million tonnes of iron ore a year to China, with a total value of around $11.9 billion. Taken from the Jimblebar mine, near Newman in northwest Australia, it will be transported by rail 432km to Port Hedland, where it will be processed and blended with ore from Mt Whaleback and other satellite deposits and then exported to China.
The ore will feed the mills of the Wuhan Iron and Steel (Group) Corporation, Maanshan Iron and Steel Company Limited, Jiangsu Shagang Group Co Ltd and the Tangshan Iron and Steel (Group) Co Ltd.
Minters advised Japanese trading houses Itochu (CI Minerals Australia) and Mitsui Iron Ore Corporation in the joint venture over the past few months.
The two trading houses are taking a 4.8 percent and 4.2 percent interest respectively in a sub-lease of the Jimblebar mine. The four Chinese mills are taking 40 per cent between them, with BHP Billiton retaining 51 per cent.
Key Minter Ellison lawyers involved in the deal included partners Andrew Thompson and Laurie Shervington, senior associate Adrian Yee and senior lawyer Sheldon Renkema, whose work included due diligence and assisting with negotiating all project documentation.
Minter Ellison was also key adviser in another landmark Australian export contract with China, the North-West Shelf partners’ $25 billion contact to supply liquefied natural gas to the Guangdong Terminal project.