Our 8 January piece on Joh Bjelke-Petersen fan Clive Palmer finally doing very nicely indeed out of his West Australian magnetite iron ore deposit has sparked a cri de coeur from a loyal employee.

Vimal Sharma, who runs the Perth end of Clive’s Mineralogy outfit, has taken exception to a perceived slight over the magnetite’s metallurgy.

“You will note, the iron ore concentrate is 71% Fe and is the premium product and is at the higher end when you compare with products from RIO, BHP and others,” writes Vimal.

“You will find Mineralogy’s is more pure and dignified of iron ore and is free of all contaminants such as phosphorus and alumina. This is also the most sought after blast furnace feed because of its great properties and usage in the furnaces…..

“I will also add, metallurgy of our deposit is well established and demonstrated to be superior to any other deposit in Australia. You obviously been misinformed.” (His bold italics.)

It also seems I might have been incorrect is suggesting Clive was a Joh-for-Canberra man.

Mr Sharma says Clive was official spokesman and State Media Director for the National Party in Queensland and that the Party organisation always opposed the Canberra campaign.

I was somehow under the impression that Clive was a Joh man through and through with nothing but admiration for all the old b-stard did.

Seeking to clarify the matter, I came across this nice summation by the SMH’s Elisabeth Sexton in a 2004 feature about the colourful legal fight Clive mounted in search of compensation from the NSW government over the Austeel Newcastle steel mill debacle:

If all else fails, Palmer will have gained valuable experience. He’s already in demand as a lecturer on “major projects and their funding”.

In 2002 he was appointed an adjunct professor in the business and law faculty at Geelong’s Deakin University. The position carries no salary, but it allows Palmer to use the title of professor. Palmer didn’t finish the journalism and government degree he started as a teenager. Instead he made a fortune selling property in Brisbane. He later worked for Queensland premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen and then turned investor in medical and technology research.

The steel mill vision was born after he took up some iron ore leases in Western Australia in 1985. Earlier unsuccessful attempts to exploit the resource include making steel in Romania, trading iron ore to the Chinese Government and selling the deposit to BHP.

There is little on the public record to suggest Palmer has any experience actually running a business. But despite this, and despite the lack of formal letters after his name, Deakin University has probably made a good choice of a lecturer to offer its students insight into the intersection of business and the law.

But with China’s Citic already having paid a $290 million first instalment with the promise of plenty more to come, I suspect Clive won’t need to run a business.

Peter Fray

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