Gina Rinehart’s lawyer says a decades-old royalties agreement for the Hope Downs iron ore mines has been misinterpreted, as the ongoing battle for a stake in the mining giant’s multi-billion dollar empire continues.
Week three of the WA Supreme Court civil trial continues the fight to fend off lucrative royalty claims from multiple claimants, including the family of the late Lang Hancock’s former business partner, Peter Wright of Wright Prospecting and associate Don Rhodes of DFD Rhodes.
Monday morning’s opening remarks from Hancock Prospecting’s lawyer Noel Hutely SC focused solely on disputing the claims of Rhodes’ parties to a 1.25 per cent share of iron ore royalties from six Pilbara mining tenements.
In response to arguments by DFD Rhodes lawyer, Jeremy Stoljar SC, made last week, Mr Hutely argued Mr Stoljar’s argument was “seeking a departure from the ordinary meaning of words”.
By doing so, he told the court, they had attempted to “rewrite” the 1960s-era bargain made between the parties.
“The Rhodes parties invite Your Honour to stretch the language of (the) reserves definition to cover all, or most portions of the Pilbara, even though the parties used entirely different language,” Mr Hutley said.
Mr Hutley spent the morning arguing the difference between the meaning of reserves and temporary reserves within the WA Mining Act, as well as the way the terms were used within the agreements between Rhodes and ‘Hanwright’ made in 1969.
He said the way in which Rhodes’ parties had made their arguments made no sense, even by way of grammar.
“The Rhodes party seem to get around this problem by breaking up the definition … into two alternative limbs,” Mr Hutley said.
“(They) have cascaded those words to try and bring Hope Downs 1-3 within the definitions.”
The case is set to become even more complex, with lawyers soon to move from arguing the importance of language to the cancellation of temporary reserves by the Minister of the time and how that impacted agreements.
The courtroom was packed with rows of legal representatives as proceedings began on Monday, with Australia’s richest person again leaving it to her legal team to attend without her.
Party to the claims too, are Rinehart’s own children, John Hancock and Hope Rinehart who have been dragged into the matter due to their own protracted legal battles with their mother over their share of Hancock profits.
It’s understood the case involves some 15,000 documents, and proceedings are expected to run into November.