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    ABC News

    Landmark decision in WA rail lines stand-off

    Posted 21 minutes ago
    Updated 12 minutes ago

    BHP and Rio have always had monopoly control over their rail lines.

    BHP and Rio have always had monopoly control over their rail lines. (Rio Tinto: file photo)

    The Federal Government has ordered mining companies Rio Tinto and BHP-Billiton to open up their rail lines in WA's north-west to third parties.

    Both BHP and Rio built their rail networks decades ago and have always had monopoly control over them.

    But rival miner Fortescue Metals Group called for the Hammersley, Robe River and Goldsworthy rail lines to be opened up to others to use.

    FMG has long argued that the State Agreements which bind Rio Tinto and BHP had always intended the lines be opened to third parties.

    Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan today declared the rail networks should be opened up from November 19 for 20 years.

    Mr Swan has rejected the miners' concerns that third party access would cost the economy billions.

    Rio Tinto's head of iron ore, Sam Walsh, says allowing third parties access to its rail will reduce the amount of iron ore it will be able to export.

    He says future expansions will be more complex and therefore delayed.

    Rio Tinto says it is considering its options and is likely to take the matter to the Australian Competition Tribunal for a review of the decision.
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