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ASCIANO is trying to block 16 coalminers from bargaining with QR over use of railway infrastructure associated with a Gladstone port.
The move comes as the miner-funded coal terminal calls for expressions of interest from miners for a second-stage expansion of the $4 billion Wiggins Island coal export terminal at Gladstone from 2015 or 2016.
A group of 16 miners has applied to the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission for permission to collectively negotiate terms and conditions of below-rail access with QR Network, the QR National unit that owns the infrastructure, for 20 years.
The miners say infrastructure blockages in the network that feeds the Dalrymple Bay coal terminal are a product of the current system, which requires separate party access negotiations and has sometimes led to contracted capacity exceeding system capabilities.
"The conduct for which the authorisation is sought is likely to generate more efficient investment through the coal export supply chain," the miners' application, written by lawyers at Mallesons Stephen Jaques, said.
"This includes increased ability to invest in infrastructure, either directly or through long-term contracts with QR Network, lower transaction costs and increased certainty and timeliness of commercial outcomes."
Asciano, which is separately seeking a National Competition Council "declaration" of Queensland's freight network, said it had several concerns about the miners' application.
"Asciano's concern is that the negotiations between the applicants and QR Network may also address non-QR Network-related issues, particularly above-rail operations," Asciano access and regulation manager Stuart Ronan said in a submission to the ACCC.
Asciano also said that 20 years was too long for the authorisation, instead arguing that five to 10 years was sufficient.
The application comes as the Nick Greiner-led Queensland Coal Industry Rail Group offers $4.85m for the rail network in an effort to scuttle the Bligh government's plans to float QR National.
Mr Ronan said that because some of the applicants -- a body of coalminers -- were members of QCIRG -- another body of coalminers -- there would be competition issues if the QCIRG bid were successful.
"Asciano has concerns that there will not be effective separation of all components of the coal supply chain," he said.
This could result "in discriminatory behaviour and below-rail business decisions . . . benefiting related coal producers to the detriment of third-party coal producers and independent operators, such as Asciano," he said.
QR said it supported the application.
The application adds a third group of coalminers to the QCIRG and WICET, which all have some common members.
The biggest Queensland coalminer, BHP Billiton, is a member of both QCIRG and WICET but, along with Rio Tinto, has not joined the application. Applicants include Xstrata, Anglo American, Wesfarmers and Macarthur Coal.
WICET yesterday said it had called on expressions of interest for stage two of the terminal, despite not having reached a mid-year target for financial commitments for stage one.
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