Fortescue ore wagons.

AUSTRALIA: A unanimous decision of the high court has ruled that BHP Billiton Iron Ore's Mount Newman and Goldsworthy railways are 'services', rather than part of the 'production process', and so the miner is obliged to negotiate third party access with competitor Fortescue Metals on a commercial basis.

The decision upholds previous rulings in favour of Fortescue Metals, which has been seeking access to the Mount Newman railway since 2004 under a plan to develop the Mindy Mindy ore deposit without having to build a duplicate rail line. BHP and Rio Tinto both oppose open access on their heavy haul networks, arguing they are part of the production process.

The Australian Competition Tribunal is expected to make a final ruling by April 2009.