2012 Mining Billionaires: #1 Eike Batista

Brazil’s Eike Fuhrken Batista is the world of mining’s top entrepreneur with a net worth of $32.8 billion as at April 15, 2012.

Bloomberg tracks Batisita’s wealth on a daily basis and places him at number 13 in the world.

Batista, who owns five public companies, famously said in 2008 – when his fortune was put at $6.6 billion, ranking him at no. 142 on the Forbes list – that his goal was to become the richest man in the world in five years.

Fast forward to 2012 and he’s climbed 135 places to become the 7th richest person on the planet, but still a long way away from Mexico’s Carlos Slim whom has more than twice Batista’s money.

Forbes describes him as “bombastic” and in his younger days Batista led the playboy lifestyle marrying Luma de Oliveira, a Brazilian nude model, and becoming a speedboat world champion.

He was born into mining and is the son of a former CEO of Vale, the world’s second largest miner and iron ore titan.

Brazil’s richest man, is a college drop out.  Batista dropped out of his engineering program, left Germany for Brazil and started as a gold trader at 23 and according to Billionaire Times constructed the Amazon’s first mechanized alluvial gold mine.

Batista is quoted as saying that mine was so rich “it was idiot proof because it survived all my mistakes.”

Batista  became at  age 29 CEO of Canada’s TVX Gold, a shell company, which he built into a miner worth billions  with operations in Latin America and  Canada, but he quit in 2001 after  two misadventures with gold projects in Greece and Russia.

He then turned to iron ore in his native Brazil where his company EBX is spending upwards of $15 billion on port infrastructure and mines. His 61% stake in EBX constitutes the bulk of his wealth and in 2008 he took $3.4 billion cash home when he sold an iron ore business to Anglo-American.

In February he bought Toronto’s Ventana Gold for over a $1 billion to get his hands on a Columbian gold mine, which he has described in similar glowing terms to his Amazon assets.

Bloomberg quotes Richard Warke, the Ventana chairman who made the sale, as saying: “He never lost the gold bug. I found him very knowledgeable about the business, the industry’s valuations and he has a very good team. He is just a very tough negotiator.”

He is 55 years old and lives in Rio de Janeiro. He has two children Thor and Olin and is divorced from De Oliveira.

Batista is a mercurial character.  The Economist reports that framed in one of his offices is a mock-up of “Eike Xiaoping” captioned: “To become rich is glorious”.  And yet, despite his vanity, he has offered millions to equip police in Rio and personally put $12 million towards the Brazilian bid for the 2016 Olympics and even paid for a biopic on past president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

His company’s newest off-shoot, OGX has already made significant finds in Brazil’s booming offshore oil and gas industry meaning Batista may yet put money where his mouth is.

In an interview with The Economist, Batista describes himself as a “truffle-sniffing labrador”. Prospectors typically search in 17,000 places for every gold find, he says: in his gold mining days he got lucky eight times. Perhaps 85% of OGX’s test wells have struck oil.


Next >>>    #2 Gina Rinehart, Australia’s ruler of iron ore, coal and the family trust

Image by Juliana Coutinho