Life appears never to be dull for Gina Rinehart, the world’s richest woman and head of mining family business Hancock Prospecting, who is now facing a legal challenge over her ownership of the family’s assets.
Wright Prospecting, a company controlled by the family of Peter Wright – who is the former business partner of Rinehart’s late father – is claiming half of Rinehart’s stake in Hancock’s most valuable project.
According to a filing in the Supreme Court of Western Australia, Wright wants to own 50% stakes in three iron ore tenements, called Hope Downs 4, 5 and 6, currently controlled by the Rinehart family.
Wright said in a statement that it jointly owned Hope Downs with the Rineharts, before it was held solely by Hancock. “Wright Prospecting maintains [they were] held by Hancock Prospecting on [the partnership’s] behalf,” the group reportedly added.
Following the allegations, Hancock’s non-family chief executive, Jay Newby, retaliated by saying that Wright had not “contributed financially to the land’s development in the past two decades”.
He reportedly added: “We find it particularly curious that [Wright] has waited until now, when construction of the Hope 4 mine is nearing completion – and has provided none of the significant funding required for such – to lodge such an unusual bid for unearned late participation.”
Wright added in the lawsuit that Hancock, inherited by Rinehart following her father’s death in 1992, had breached the alleged partnership agreement by selling stakes to Rio Tinto without Wright’s approval. Rio Tinto came on board in 2005 when Hancock sold part of Hope Downs to the iron ore exporter.
Both the Wrights and Rineharts are not new to the world of legal challenges. The families are still fighting over a 11-year-old dispute over ownership of a property called Rhodes Ridge.
Meanwhile, Rinehart, who is worth an estimated $18 billion, has also been taken to court by three of her four children over her role as trustee of the family’s fund. The Hope Margaret Hancock Trust was created by Lang Hancock, Rinehart’s father, for the benefit of his grandchildren.