Rinehart loses appeal over stake in much-hyped iron ore project

Mining billionaire Gina Rinehart's Hancock Prospecting lost Tuesday an appeal to retain its share in the touted Rhodes Ridge iron ore project in Australia’s Pilbara, forecast to be worth billions once developed.

Rinehart, the world of mining's 4th richest person, was appealing against a 2010 Supreme Court decision that awarded Hancock's stake to rival dynasty Wright Prospecting because of an agreement signed by the companies' founders, Lang Hancock and Peter Wright.

The parts signed the deal in 1984 to divide their assets in an effort to prevent any disagreements between the families.

But today’s decision leaves Wright Prospecting with 50% of the Rhodes iron ore asset and joint venture partner Rio Tinto (LON, NYSE:RIO) the other half.

Perth-based Rinehart's true wealth is hard to gauge as the vast majority of it is tied up in Hancock Prospecting, which is the private firm that controls her empire, but the latest estimates put it at $18 billion and counting.

The $1.6 billion Hope Downs 4 project will have annual capacity of 15 million metric tons once it’s operating next year, according to an August statement from Rio. It’ll be Rinehart’s second operating mine, after the $1 billion Hope Downs.

Australia is the world’s largest iron ore exporter.

Image courtesy of Powerhouse Museum Collection.

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