Outspoken resources tycoon Clive Palmer condemned the “rape and disrespect” of Australia by foreign firms on Friday in a spat with a Chinese miner that warned the case was being watched closely in Asia.
Palmer is locked in a long-running dispute over royalties and port operations with Hong Kong-based Citic Pacific over its Sino Iron magnetite project, a partnership with China’s state-owned Metallurgical Group Corporation.
Citic is mining for magnetite iron ore on Palmer’s sprawling Australian Mardie Station cattle farm under a 25-year lease.
But the two parties have clashed over what share of the proceeds are owed to the Australian businessman and whether his company, Mineralogy, is the legal operator of the project’s export terminal at Port Preston.
Palmer lashed out at Citic after a court ruling on Thursday in his favour on the port, accusing the Chinese of having “occupied the port and shipped Australian resources to China without paying full consideration”.
“Sino Iron and Citic Pacific seem to think they can take our resources without paying for them,” Palmer said in a statement.
“I will not stand by and see Australian interests raped and disrespected by foreign-owned companies,” he added.
Palmer said he felt “compelled to warn all Australian companies to be careful when using a foreign partner. “This doesn’t mean that all Chinese companies act in this manner. It just means Citic Pacific is trying to corrupt our system,” he added.
He later said Australians “admire the Chinese people for their achievements in science, space and in industry”. “They are courageous and have shown bravery in the second world war as they fought with Australia against our common foe. We wish them no ill at all.
“All Mineralogy seeks is a friendly co-operative approach to supply long-term iron ore to China for the mutual benefit of the Chinese and Australian people,” he added.
Citic Pacific’s president Zhang Jijing warned that the case could have broader implications for Chinese business in Australia and dismissed claims his company had not paid its fair share of royalties as “rubbish”.
“Most other Chinese companies are watching our legal case... This is very important,” Zhang said at a Melbourne mining function, according to The Australian Financial Review.
Zhang said Citic had hoped to resolve the dispute with Palmer privately. “It’s fair to say though that there are some larger-than-life characters involved here and perhaps this was an unrealistic expectation,” he said.
“I have never met such a person like this gentleman.”
The flamboyant self-made mining baron, renowned for rebuilding a replica of the Titanic and who was elected to Australia’s parliament last year, said the Chinese firm “want[s] to take our resources back to China without paying for them”.
“In our opinion this is tantamount to stealing, and most Australians would be in agreement,” he said.
Zhang said Citic had complied with the law and “welcome the intervention and protection of the Australian judicial system when necessary”.