Hancock Prospecting is being compelled to hand back a stake in the Rhodes Ridge iron ore project after the Gina Rinehart-led company dragged its heels after a court ruling.
A 2010 court order forced Hancock to relinquish its 25 per cent stake in the project in Western Australia’s Pilbara region, increasing Wright Prospecting’s interest to 50 per cent.
The order honoured an agreement between Ms Rinehart’s father, Lang Hancock, and his business partner, Peter Wright, in 1984, that involved the carve-up of their various mining assets.
An appeal by Hancock was dismissed in October 2012 but the company contested certain court orders.
In February, the appeal against the orders was dismissed. And in September, the full bench of the High Court refused Hancock’s application for special leave to appeal.
On Wednesday, Hancock was ordered in WA’s Supreme Court to execute a deed of assignment, meaning it must soon hand over the stake to Wright.
Hancock had been dragging its heels since the September judgment, forcing Wright to return the matter to court.
Hancock sought 28 days to execute the deed, but Wright lawyer Rodney Brender said only a few days was necessary.
“There’s no reason for any delay,” he said.
“They’ve held onto this asset for so long.”
But Justice Rene Le Miere decided to grant Hancock 28 days, saying the company should have time to digest the order.
Rio Tinto owns the other half of Rhodes Ridge, situated east of its West Angelas operations and south of its Hope Downs joint venture with Hancock.
Rhodes Ridge has been the subject of legal battles before the Hancock and Wright stoush.
Junior explorer Cazaly Resources began its valiant attempt to wrest control of the project from the three mining heavyweights in 2007.
Cazaly said the joint venture had “warehoused” the project for decades instead of developing it.
In 2010, the Supreme Court of WA said Cazaly had a case but the company has not pushed ahead with its challenge.
Hancock and Wright remain embroiled in two separate court disputes over all six of the Hope Downs iron ore project areas. Wright seeks half of Hancock’s 50 per cent stake, considering Hope Downs was jointly discovered by Lang Hancock and Peter Wright.
Wright Prospecting said it welcomed Justice Le Miere’s order.
“Throughout this matter, and the previous matters in the High Court of Australia, Supreme Court of Western Australia and the Court of Appeal, Wright Prospecting’s focus has been to enforce and protect its rights to 50 per cent of the Rhodes Ridge joint venture,” the company said in a statement.
“The company is pleased that today’s order now enforces and implements these previous decisions.”