The iron price

A prominent Gippsland businessman’s attempts to establish a multi-billion dollar project exporting iron ore from South America to China have run afoul, with two of his companies going into liquidation.

Entrepreneurial trailblazer Trevor Andrews, who has lived in Sale and more recently Hazelwood North, also faces potential bankruptcy, through a personal wind-up notice due to be heard in the New South Wales Supreme Court tomorrow.

His company at the centre of the ambitious iron ore project, EFAT Pty Ltd, was placed into liquidation on 23 September, along with his forestry business Dell Vista Pty Ltd, following the filing of wind-up notices by Cambridge Petroleum Royalties Ltd in June.

Insolvency firm Cor Cordis has been appointed as liquidator, however after more than a fortnight of preliminary investigations, firm accountant Steven Levy said little had been uncovered about either company’s affairs.

Mr Andrews gained notoriety in the Gippsland business world after pioneering the export of wood chips from East Gippsland wood coups to Japan during the 1980s.

He is also understood to have owned Morwell Welding Supplies – a major supplier of equipment during the construction of the Loy Yang B power station.

The Express has been unsuccessful in attempts to contact Mr Andrews, while numerous contacts claim he has gone to ground in the past few months.

According to multiple sources formerly associated with Mr Andrews, he had attracted hundreds of thousands of dollars from a range of national and Gippsland-based investors over the last four years through his attempts to establish the EFAT iron ore project.

The project is understood to have involved the purchase of lower grade iron ore from Brazil, before on-selling it to Chinese steel mills, in a transaction process which involved “colossal amounts of ore and money” from which EFAT would take a percentage.

However, according to a number of individuals tied up with the project, patience was wearing thin among investors, with one associate now convinced it had stagnated to become a “phantom project”. 

Western Australian entrepreneur Allan Blood, who has been working to establish a coal-to-urea project in the Latrobe Valley, said he was among a number of entrepreneurs who had fallen afoul of the iron ore operation. 

According to Mr Blood, Mr Andrews had expressed interest in raising equity for Latrobe Fertiliser’s $10 million works approval process, and had committed to providing $8 million, to be funded through an initial iron ore purchase transaction. 

“I know a bit about iron ore from my past life, when he approached me he asked all the right questions, and he answered with all the right answers,” Mr Blood said. 

“This gentleman was introduced to our company and project as one of the pillars of the Latrobe Valley business community… he had a lot of friends who could vouch for him.

“We hung on for a year, giving this guy extension after extension, but it became apparent he is living in some kind of delusional world. It’s scary because he not only convinced us; there’s other business men and individuals that have been wrapped up in this.”

Mr Blood subsequently took EFAT to the County Court of Victoria, where a judgement was handed down in August, ordering EFAT to pay Latrobe Fertilisers Ltd $8 million.

However with EFAT since being placed into liquidation, Mr Blood said he had no hope of seeing “one cent” of the money, and was busy working to make up a six month delay caused by the soured arrangement.

All other investors and associates declined to comment publicly on their involvement in the iron ore project.

Attempts to contact Cambridge Petroleum Royalties Ltd were also unsuccessful.