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Junior iron ore miner Atlas Iron Ltd says it welcomes the Australian Competition Tribunal's decision to declare BHP Billiton Ltd's Goldsworthy railway open to smaller miners, which could help Atlas' projects.
The tribunal on Wednesday decided to allow third parties to use the Goldsworthy and Robe rail lines, which are owned by BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto Ltd respectively, in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.
The tribunal did not, however, declare BHP Billiton's Mt Newman and Rio Tinto's Hamersley rail lines, which were regarded as more important, open to smaller miners.
Atlas said on Friday that the tribunal's decision helped pave the way for opportunities for substantial increases in the company's iron ore production.
The Goldsworthy railway is close to some of Atlas' main iron ore deposits including its first mine, Pardoo, about 100km from Port Hedland.
The Goldsworthy line runs directly to Port Hedland and is adjacent to existing and planned multi-user port infrastructure at Utah Point, where Atlas has space for its ore.
"While there is still a number of issues to be resolved it will now be seriously considered as a means for transporting ore to Port Hedland," Atlas said in a statement.
Fortescue Metals Group Ltd said it would appeal to the full bench of the Federal Court on the Mt Newman and Hamersley decisions and BHP Billiton indicated it could take the Goldsworthy matter down the same path.
Notwithstanding appeals to the tribunal's decisions, smaller iron ore miners would need to negotiate terms of access with the mining giants, which could be a challenging process.
Atlas managing director David Flanagan said he agreed with the tribunal's finding that it would not be contrary to the public interest for third parties to be granted access to the Goldsworthy railway and associated infrastructure.
Mr Flanagan said shared rail infrastructure would ultimately support many companies and new long-life projects, potentially creating thousands of new jobs and adding billions of dollars in extra export revenues to Australia's coffers.
Shares in Atlas were up five cents, or 2.42 per cent, at $2.12 at 1222 AEST.
Aquila Resources Ltd also on Friday said the tribunal's decision to open up the Robe railway to other users may benefit the smaller miner's West Pilbara iron ore project.
© 2010 AAP
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