FMG continues attack as Australia backs away from iron ore inquiry

Fortescue Metals Group (FMG) chairman Andrew Forrest said he would continue to bring issues related to the collapse in iron ore prices to the attention of the Australian people.

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The executive made the comments in the wake of a decision by the country's government not to proceed with an inquiry into the iron ore industry, following the price collapse in the sector.

“After discussing the issue with regulatory bodies and stakeholders across the resources sector, the government will not be initiating an inquiry at this time,” Australia’s treasurer Joe Hockey said in a statement late on Thursday May 21.

While BHP Billiton ceo Andrew Mackenzie told Steel First the company welcomed the decision and thanked the government “for its consultation across in the industry”, Forrest said the move “denies the Australian people the opportunity” to understand whether the iron ore industry has been operating as an open market.

“People need to know the circumstances that led to the collapse in the price of iron ore, the loss of thousands of jobs, the shutdown of companies and the loss of billions of dollars from State and Federal budgets," Forrest said in an emailed statement to Steel First on Friday May 22.

The threat of oversupply, or "self-harm" by Australia in a market it dominates, is the biggest factor, Forrest said.

He added that he was looking for transparency rather than government intervention in the market.

“Those that paint me as an interventionist know the iron ore industry is an oligopoly in which each of the big players wield more market power than Saudi Arabia in oil,” Forrest said.

The public debate among senior executives in the industry started earlier this year when Forrest said miners should work together placing a cap on iron ore production.

He also criticised BHP and Rio Tinto for continuing to ramp up output when prices of the steelmaking raw material slumped and called for a formal inquiry into the sector.

Earlier this week, BHP’s Mackenzie said an inquiry into Australia’s iron ore industry was “unnecessary” as it sends the “wrong signal” to international customers about the country’s commitment to free trade.

Rio Tinto did not respond to a request for comment at the time of writing.

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