Billionaire Palmer steps up fight with China’s CITIC amid nickel slump (Reuters India – December 4, 2015)

SYDNEY/MELBOURNE – Dec 4 Officials in Australia’s Queensland state are prepared to step in to help protect jobs at a nickel refinery if needed, but called on its owner, mining magnate and politician Clive Palmer, to be open about the refinery’s financial position.

Concerns resurfaced this week about the future of the Queensland Nickel refinery when a lawyer acting for Palmer sought an advance A$48 million ($35 million) payment in an unrelated dispute, saying the matter needed to he heard that week.

The case against estranged iron ore partner, China’s CITIC Ltd, over any advanced payment of royalties due on the Sino Iron project will now be heard on Monday.

Queensland Nickel, bought by Palmer from BHP Billiton in 2009, is one of the country’s biggest refineries with a capacity of 35,000 tonnes a year.

A slump in the nickel price from just over $13 a pound in early 2011 to $4.73 a pound amid a mounting supply glut has put pressure on many producers of the metal, used to make stainless steel.

Queensland state’s treasurer said he had met with Queensland Nickel but declined to say what exactly was discussed, except to say the commodities slump was hurting the whole resources sector, including Queensland Nickel.

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