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Published 28 February 2013 12:01, Updated 28 February 2013 12:04
The minimal impact from the loss of Rhodes Ridge on wealth estimates of Gina Rinehart provides an indication as to the vastness of her personal fortune and opportunity for her to make it much bigger.
Rhodes Ridge, an iron ore deposit in the Pilbara, is one of several undeveloped projects that sits – or has sat – in Rinehart’s portfolio of assets.
Yesterday, the West Australian Supreme Court of Appeal decided to award her 25 per cent stake in Rhodes Ridge to descendants of her father Lang Hancock’s former business partner, Peter Wright.
Rinehart is believed to be considering a High Court challenge to the decision.
Mining giant Rio Tinto’s half-stake in Rhodes Ridge in unaffected.
The legal battle between Wright Prospecting and Hancock Prospecting over Rhodes Ridge has been running for more than a decade.
The legal bill will be immense. The court has decided that Rinehart must pay costs for both sides, but this is unlikely to stop her.
History tells us that Rinehart doesn’t shy away from fights over her father’s assets – no matter the cost.
Like other mining billionaires, Rinehart’s wealth has fluctuated widely in recent years as the country has come in and out of a massive mining boom.
At the peak of the boom, Rinehart was worth $29 billion and became the richest woman in the world, due mainly to her stakes in the Roy Hill and Hope Downs iron ore mines and her Hamersley mine royalties.
But large parts of Hope Downs are pegged, undeveloped and unvalued. Their proximity to existing mines and necessary infrastructure provide large-scale opportunities for expansion.
Last year she also ramped up attempts to explore Australia and south-east Asia for a range of commodities including uranium, diamonds and oil and gas. She also has undeveloped coal projects in Queensland, which were worth about $250 million when the last Rich 200 was published, but have scope to be worth much more.
If Rinehart loses her stake in Rhodes Ridge she will lose claims to an asset that may one day be worth billions. Fortunately for her, she retains one of the most enviable resource portfolios in the world and the opportunity to become much richer.