Clive Palmer sells Queensland Nickel refinery for $2 billion

Mining mogul Clive Palmer has turned small change into billions of dollars after selling off a key asset for a truly staggering sum.

The former federal MP claims to have sold his Queensland Nickel refinery to a Swiss consortium for around $2 billion – an impressive price tag, considering the rich-lister is believed to have picked up the site from BHP Billiton in 2009 for just $1.

The Townsville refinery went on to collapse into administration a few years later in 2016 after racking up $300 million in debts, with 700 employees losing their jobs as a result.

Since then, the site has remained empty after being shut down in care and maintenance, although Mr Palmer has repeatedly claimed he planned to reopen it.

However, that plan seems to have been shelved, with the billionaire telling The Australianhe had sold his joint venture shares in the two firms that own the refinery site – QNI Resources Pty Ltd and QNI Metals Pty Ltd – to Zero Carbon Investek, which is led by Dr Richard Petty.

“I am happy to announce that this first-class asset has found enthusiastic and expert new owners in Zero Carbon Investek,’’ Mr Palmer said in the statement provided to The Australian.

“I look forward to the Queensland government and all relevant authorities lending their full support to the new owners.

“This is a big win for the people of North Queensland providing jobs and economic benefits.”

The statement also claimed that the refinery would now “directly employ approximately 800 staff, upon restart of operations, and many more during the construction period”.

The syndicate also plans to invest an additional $800 million to ensure the refinery has net zero carbon emissions by switching from coal and gas-fired power to solar.

“While the restart of the refinery is the key strategic priority, Zero Carbon Investek is also targeting the development of a large scale, 1.5Gw solar photovoltaic (PV) plant and battery storage facility at the refinery site to create new industry opportunities and sustainable environmental benefits,’’ Dr Petty said in the statement provided to the publication.

“Reducing the carbon intensity of operations through the development of solar PV is a key priority for Yabulu moving forward.”

The sale will now be looked into by the Foreign Investment Review Board for final approval.

In 2019, Clive Palmer fought a massive federal government legal case against him and his nephew Clive Mensink over the Townsville refinery’s collapse in a high-profile Brisbane Supreme Court trial.

At the time, the court heard Mr Palmer had signed a $135 million deal to pay himself ahead of workers and suppliers in the lead up to the collapse.

In 2020, the Supreme Court dismissed a claim made by Queensland Nickel’s liquidators over money owed from the closure of the north Queensland refinery – but last year, the Court of Appeal ordered Mr Palmer’s mining company Mineralogy pay $102.8 million to the liquidators.

Meanwhile, earlier this year, it was revealed that Mr Palmer was now planning to sue the commonwealth for billions of dollars in damages over a stalled iron ore mine in Western Australia’s Pilbara region.

Mr Palmer, who was unsuccessful in suing WA for $32 billion over the Balmoral South project, sent a notice of intent to the federal government proposing international arbitration.

His Singapore-based company Zeph Investments plans to bring a claim under an international free trade agreement.

It is not known how much money the Queensland businessman will be seeking, but it is expected to be more than $32 billion.

During the trial over the refinery, one of the refinery’s administrators, Kelly-Anne Trenfield, said she believed Mr Palmer had originally purchased the site for just $1 – small change for a man who doubled his wealth in 2021 to an eye-watering $18.35 billion.

Earlier this year, it was revealed Mr Palmer was Australia’s seventh-richest person behind Gina Rinehart ($32 billion), Andrew Forrest ($31 billion), Anthony Pratt ($27 billion), Mike Cannon-Brookes ($26 billion), Scott Farquhar ($25.9 billion) and Harry Triguboff ($20 billion).

The United Australia Party founder made an astonishing $8.59 billion last year, according to The Australian’s list of Australia’s wealthiest people.

– with NCA NewsWire

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