BHP, Rio may face early tax in Western Australia
SYDNEY: Western Australia may ask Rio Tinto Group and BHP Billiton Ltd to pay potentially billions of dollars to end a mining rent tax to help patch a budget decimated by lower commodity prices.
The state government is seeking advice on a proposal that would see the nation’s two biggest miners pay out an ironore levy early in a one-off lump sum, State Premier Mark McGowan said yesterday.
The opposition National Party last week said in parliament that such a plan could raise as much as A$4 billion (RM12.81 billion) for the state, which hosts the giant Pilbara iron ore mines.
“We have a very major budget issue in Western Australia and it’s quite catastrophic,” McGowan told reporters in Perth.
“We’re looking at many options as to how to address that. One of the options that has been suggested is whether or not there is a buyout of the lease rental fee.”
Western Australia’s Labour administration faces a daunting task in turning around its economy. The government has previously said that erasing a debt mountain of more than A$30 billion would take decades.
Instead of increasing the miners’ rental payments levied on iron ore, currently fixed at 25 Australian cents a tonne, the companies would be asked to pay them out in advance under the potential plan. The proposal has so far received lukewarm response from BHP and Rio, who fought against a National Party proposal to boost the levy to A$5 a tonne during the election.
“We are not in talks with the Western Australia government” on the payout proposal, said a BHP spokesman yesterday.
“BHP has paid about A$11 billion in royalties to the Western Australia government in the past decade.”
“Rio Tinto has not had any formal discussions with the Western Australian government about paying out the iron ore lease rental charge,” said a Rio Tinto spokesman.
“Rio Tinto has previously rejected the payout proposal.” Bloomberg
The Western Australia government is seeking advice on a proposal that would see the nation’s two biggest miners, BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto, pay out an iron-ore levy early in a one-off lump sum that could amount to A$4 billion.