Jnu.3 - Brockman Mining Ltd has signed a memorandum of understanding with China's state-owned Tianjin Port Group for potential investment as Brockman seeks to gain access to Fortescue Metals Group's iron ore rail line.
Brockman said the provisional agreement was to explore the opportunity for a strategic investment by Tianjin in the mine, rail and port infrastructure for Brockman's Marillana project.
Brockman has applied for access to Fortescue's rail line in the Pilbara region in western Australia, a move crucial to the Chinese firm's efforts to start producing iron ore.
Rail access is the biggest hurdle to aspiring iron ore producers in Western Australia, and if Brockman is successful in its bid it could open the way for others, like Atlas Mining and Flinders Mines, to open new mines without having to build multi-billion dollar rail lines.
Brockman wants to discuss terms with Fortescue's port and rail unit, The Pilbara Infrastructure (TPI), to haul up to 20 million tonnes of iron ore a year for 20 years, starting in 2016, in the first test of state rules that require TPI to offer access to rival miners at regulated rates.
Brockman chairman Kwai Sze Hoi said the provisional agreement with Tianjin was a "critical step" towards defining an infrastructure solution for the project and would support either the access proposal to the TPI railway or an alternative railway and port plan being studied with Aurizon and Atlas Iron.
Fortescue has long said it wanted to give other smaller miners access to its rail line, after having failed in its own efforts to force mega miners Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton to open their rail lines.
But miners like Atlas and Brockman, which was taken over by Hong Kong-based limousine company Wah Nam International last year, have been unable to agree on terms with Fortescue up to now.