The nickel mine that ensnared two tycoons – by Tony Koch (The Australian – December 12, 2015)

Several decades ago, a footballer came from the field at the end of the game and said to his coach, “How did I go?’’  The coach famously replied: “Obviously you went crap. If you had done good, you wouldn’t have to ask.’’

The same could apply to certain nouveau riche self-proclaimed “billionaire entrepreneurs’’ who, on close inspection, often possess little more than massive risky bank loans and the private jet ­status symbol.

It is intriguing in that context to look at the parallel lives of “billionaires’’ Clive Palmer and the late, disgraced Alan Bond, and how the fragility of their bluster was exposed by a relatively insignificant nickel mine and processing plant at Greenvale, 25km north of Townsville in north Queensland.

In 1986, Bond wanted to buy shares owned by the Queensland government in the lucrative Castlemaine Perkins XXXX Brewery so he went to negotiate with the then premier, Joh Bjelke-Petersen.

Bjelke-Petersen refused to speak about the shares unless and until Bond settled a defamation action the premier had launched against the Nine Network (then owned by Bond) because its current affairs show had aired allegations that Bjelke-Petersen had improperly obtained overseas loans.

Bond, without reference to his lawyers, immediately wrote a cheque for $400,000. The share deal was then addressed and he ­acquired the brewery.

About the same time, Bond bought the Greenvale Nickel mine. The mine had a financially troubled life from its beginnings in 1973. The Coalition government of the day (headed by Bjelke-Petersen) offered a guarantee for some of the project’s commercial debt, to assist it to stay viable. The joint-venture owners were subsidiaries of Freeport Minerals, a large American multinational mining company, and Metals Exploration NL.

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