Aaron Bunch Journalist with Australian Associated Press | Collection of published work | + 61 484 008 119 | abunch@aap.com.au

Aaron Bunch
US expert slams Palmer Qld Nickel deal

A deal between Clive Palmer and Queensland Nickel, days before administrators were called to the cash-strapped refinery, was worthless, a court has heard.

July 23, 2019

An international expert says two of Clive Palmer’s Queensland mining assets were worthless when the billionaire allegedly signed two multimillion-dollar deals with the cash-strapped Queensland Nickel refinery.

The $235 million deal has been described as “extraordinary” because it allegedly paid out Mr Palmer before the Townsville refinery’s workers and suppliers if QN went into administration.

This is what happened within days of the ink drying on the agreement, ahead of the ailing refinery’s eventual collapse three months later in April 2016.

Mr Palmer is now fighting a lawsuit in Brisbane Supreme Court against liquidators, who are chasing him for about $200 million they say was owed to creditors when QN shut down.

A team of special liquidators is also tasked with recovering almost $70 million in taxpayer funds used to cover unpaid entitlements to about 800 workers let go from the refinery.

US mining valuations expert Richard Marston, who was the co-author of a report scrutinising Mr Palmer’s China First and Waratah Coal mining assets in the Galilee Basin, says when administrators were called to QN, the companies were worthless.

“The coal prices just weren’t there to support such a major investment,” he told the court on Monday.

“Based on the information I reviewed in the project valuation report and all the numbers that were there to support that, (the projects were) worthless.”

During a marathon, two-hour cross-examination, that at times verged on heated, Mr Palmer pressed Mr Marston on his assessment in light of Adani’s nearby Carmichael project getting a green light for development.

“I can tell you if you both put 80 million tonnes of coal on the market, you’ll both go broke,” Mr Marston fired back.

“Prices are everything.”

The trial will continue with Mr Marston’s evidence on Tuesday.

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