Australia could face anti-competition probe over iron ore-Cliffs CEO
By James Regan
PERTH, March 11 (Reuters) - U.S.-based mining company Cliffs Natural Resources on Wednesday blamed Australia for a dramatic fall in ore prices and warned that its central bank may one day be called to explain anti-competitive practices.
Lourenco Goncalves, president of Cliffs Natural Resources Inc, said his company was quitting the Australian iron ore business and putting its one mine in the country up for sale to focus on the more promising U.S. market.
He said Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton had embarked on separate campaigns to saturate China with tens of millions of tonnes of Australian ore to drive out local competitors.
Goncalves told an industry conference that the Reserve Bank of Australia had manipulated its currency to help BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto displace Chinese domestic production of iron ore to their benefit.
BHP declined comment, and Rio Tinto and the Reserve Bank of Australia were not available for immediate comment.
The Australian dollar has lost about 17 percent of its value against the U.S. dollar since last September.
"That would be a difficult point if one day Australia has to defend that in the WTO," he said, referring to the World Trade Organisation.
Goncalves has previously said the market was misinformed in the belief that low iron ore prices would force Chinese producers out of business, and that it would be the Australian and Brazilian miners who would be left bleeding. Continued...