Palmer’s fortune triples as sacked staff ‘in ruins’
CLIVE Palmer's wealth soared by $10 million a week last year as authorities fought to have him repay millions in redundancies for workers sacked from his Townsville nickel refinery.
The beleaguered businessman added $522 million to his fortune, analysis by The Courier-Mail shows.
Of that, $357 million came from the West Australian Supreme Court ordering Chinese-owned Citic to pay Mr Palmer's privately owned company Mineralogy royalties it owed for iron ore from his Pilbara deposits.
The 63-year-old has also benefited from ongoing increases in international coal prices, with his Central Queensland Coal Project (formerly known as Styx), 130km northwest of Rockhampton, gaining in value.
An environmental impact statement has been filed with the State Government for the project, which could produce up to 10 million tonnes of coal if it goes ahead.
The windfall has more than tripled the estimated total wealth of the businessman to more than $700 million.
He also claims the terms of the court order will guarantee him billions of dollars more over the next two decades.
But it has outraged Townsville Mayor Jenny Hill and former employees of his Queensland Nickel plant which shut down in April 2016, owing $300 million and at the cost of hundreds of jobs.
"Here we've got a multi-millionaire and failed federal MP who's destroyed the lives of 900 people and nearly ruined our community,'' Cr Hill said.
"He ripped the guts out of Queensland Nickel, left his workers out-of-pocket and out of a job, and has not paid millions of dollars owed."
Cr Hill said it was sickening to think of the heartache left for blue-collar workers while Mr Palmer built a mega-fortune and lived a life of luxury.
"It is a symptom of society when Queenslanders get more outraged by a kid stealing a car than white-collar criminals who do all sorts of things and the justice system seems to let them off and they don't end up with jail time.''
Former Queensland Nickel worker Paul Maloney, a father-of-three, and his wife Cassandra, spent their first Christmas in 17 years apart because the only job he could get was as a fly-in, fly-out worker in Western Australia.
"Clive Palmer destroyed lives and tore apart families. My husband is now away from his family for two-thirds of the year,'' Mrs Maloney said yesterday.
"Clive Palmer needs to pay his bills. This crap about him reopening Queensland Nickel is nonsense. Who'd trust him to work for him? Lots of workers never got their full entitlements.
"Everyone says he's a cunning businessman, but I hate him. I think he's a heartless idiot.''
Mr Palmer said Queensland Nickel intended to come out of administration in 2016 and continue trading. "The administrator decided to shut it down and make people redundant, not us," he said.
He also argued that Queensland Nickel had paid $709 million in taxes in the previous decade and was entitled to government support "like any other business".
He said he was still considering reopening the Townsville plant.
The order against Citic covered royalties due to March 31 this year.
"The royalties formula determined means there is another $160 million due to the end of 2017," Mr Palmer told The Courier-Mail.
He claims it also ensures a minimum US$180 million a year in royalties for the next 20 years. But if the Chinese meet their production targets, it will be US$360 million a year.
Mr Palmer also retains equity in the closed Palmer Coolum Resort, on the Sunshine Coast; a resort at Bora Bora, in Tahiti; former golf courses on the Gold Coast; and a portfolio of private properties.
But his newly inflated fortune could be cut again if special purposes liquidators appointed by the Federal Government succeed in Supreme Court action to recover $70 million paid in redundancies to former refinery workers.
On December 30, Mr Palmer took to Twitter to complain that Citic had not handed over the money.
"Mineralogy has recently received a judgment in its favour for US$153m against the largest Chinese Govt owned company in the world, Citic Limited. The Chinese Government-owned company still has not paid the judgement and continues to export Australian resources without paying," he posted.