#2 Gina Rinehart
Perth-based Georgina Rinehart's true wealth is hard to guage as the vast majority of it is tied up in a private firm Hancock Prospecting which controls her empire.
Bloomberg estimates her fortune at $18.9 billion saying it has doubled in the past year thanks to billions of dollars of investments in her coal and iron ore projects in Australia from India and South Korea respectively.
Rinehart, 58, inherited Hancock Prospecting from her father Lang Hancock who discovered the world’s largest iron deposit in the Pilbara region in 1952.
When Rinehart took over 20 years ago the family firm was debt-ridden and struggling and she built it into the world’s number one private mining business.
While Rinehart’s business success has been mammoth, her private life has not always been a happy one.
She has not remarried after her second husband died in 1990. In January Rinehart handed her daughter Ginia (sic) directorships of three companies, including Hancock Prospecting.
Ginia who is 25 years old is the only one of Rinehart’s four children who are not currently suing her in court in a bitter dispute over control of the family fortune.
The shake-up was the biggest in a long time at the Rinehart group of companies and elevates Ginia in place of her siblings – Bianca Rinehart, John Hancock and Hope Welker – to the top ranks in the world of mining.
Some believe the publicity-shy Rinehart is predicted to become the world’s richest person as her coal and iron projects start producing by 2014 and earn her annual profits of as much as $10 billion.
In February Rinehart increased her newspaper and television investments in Australia prompting one observer to comment that Big G is “gonna be the whole shooting match”.