Wed, Jan 13, 2010 - Page 1 News List

Big miners ‘sideline’ China in iron ore talks: report

AFP , SYDNEY

The world’s largest miners are pushing ahead with iron ore price negotiations with Japan while leaving their biggest customer, China, out in the cold, a report said yesterday.

The world’s top three iron ore producers — Brazil’s Vale and Anglo-Australian companies Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton — have sidelined Beijing from annual talks to set a benchmark contract price, the Financial Times said.

The companies plan to present a “take it or leave it” price to Chinese steel mills once negotiations with Japan are complete, it said.

“As far as I am concerned, they [Chinese negotiators] could come over to Australia if they want to talk,” an unnamed executive told the paper.

The report comes one day after Chinese authorities said they had concluded a commercial espionage probe relating to Rio Tinto executive Stern Hu (胡士泰), but gave no indication of whether the Australian passport-holder would face trial.

Hu and three other Rio employees were arrested in Shanghai in July during last year’s iron-ore talks, prompting concerns within the industry about dealing with China.

BHP Billiton and Rio refused to comment on the article.

“We never discuss or provide commentary on pricing discussions,” a spokesman for Rio said.

Japan’s two largest steelmakers, Nippon Steel and JFE Steel, also refrained from commenting.

“Since it’s a matter of negotiations among private firms, we are not in a position to comment,” a spokesman for JFE Steel said.

Annual iron ore pricing negotiations traditionally begin with Japan around November and take place alongside similar negotiations with China.

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