Mining magnate Lang Hancock was “emphatically opposed” to anything less than a complete split of assets between him and his former business partner Peter Wright, the West Australian Supreme Court has been told.
As week three of a massive multi-party civil trial over a stake in assets from the Hope Downs mine continued, Hancock Prospecting Pty Ltd (HPPL) lawyer Noel Hutley SC carried on his attack on the claims, this time turning his attention to Mr Wright’s company Wright Prospecting Pty Ltd (WPPL).
Mr Hutley spoke of a handful of clauses relevant to both the 1984 and 1987 agreements made between Mr Hancock and Mr Wright that he said laid out why Mr Wright’s party was not entitled to a share of assets from the Hope Downs project – referred to at the time as East Angelas.
He said while the 1984 agreement had largely divided assets between the pair so they could go their separate ways, he said it was the 1987 agreement that dealt expressly with Hope Downs.
“Properly analysed, WPPL’s case is a short one and they seek to make the case much more complicated than it is and Your Honour will not be distracted or beguiled by unnecessary complications,” Mr Hutley said.
“This case is about whether the property was acquired on account of the firm or on account of HPPL in its own interests.”
Mr Hutley argued that WPPL not only had “no interest” in the East Angelas temporary reserves at the time of the latter agreement, but also added they had not paid “a proverbial red cent” to contribute to the exploration, maintenance and development of the licenses to mine.
As part of this argument, Mr Hutley referred to general ledgers submitted in evidence which he said showed that all costs in relation to the reserves were borne by HPPL.
“There is not one mention of WPPL contributing one dollar to this, and if it was the intention of HPPL that this be an application on behalf of Hanwright, that is a joint undertaking as our learned friends would have it, it passes credulity that there would be no reference to WPPL,” he said.
“If, as is contended on behalf of WPPL, the East Angelas exploration licenses were partnership assets, one would expect to find costs of WPPL.
“WPPL has no such evidence.”
The court heard as the duo worked toward dismantling their partnership in the late 80s, Mr Hancock grew frustrated at past agreements which meant the pair had to keep each other updated on projects, as well as offering each other the choice to opt in to them.
Mr Hutley argued it was Mr Hancock’s intention with the 1987 agreement to make it clear that each party was free to explore new opportunities, and that there was no obligation to offer any participation in any such venture or any royalty.
Despite Mr Hancock’s best efforts to tidy up all of those loose ends tying the pair’s future assets together, the exact issue the court heard Mr Hancock was trying to avoid, was obviously realised decades later.
“We can make a total clean up package provision so as not to leave grey areas for our respective heirs to argue about,” the court heard Mr Hancock wrote in communications with Mr Wright at the time.