Gina Rinehart says Hancock Prospecting was a mess when she took over

The second episode of a two-part Australian Story special has seen Gina Rinehart recount the struggle she went through to save Hancock Prospecting after her father died.

In the final episode which aired on the ABC last night, Rinehart said the company was not in a healthy state when she took over in 1992.

“The business was in a very difficult state when I first took over the company,” Rinehart said.

"You know I walked into a situation where cheques were getting written,  popped in drawers so that when people phoned up they could honestly say, look, we've signed the cheque … you'll get it ultimately."

Rinehart said Hancock Prospecting had to get out of an "arrangement with Russia" that could have killed the company.

"So I had to go to Russia and get out of that commitment, that was not easy.  I took with me somebody who was supposed to stay in the meeting with me and was so frightened his hair was up and he kept going off to vomit or whatever in the bathroom.  It was a very frightening experience because I wasn't sure about getting out of the country after delivering a very difficult message to deliver – we can't do this."

Rinehart said she worked tirelessly to build the company back up, and claims the perception that an iron ore tenement leads to instant riches is false.

“I’d lost my parents. I’d lost my husband. I didn’t have brothers and sisters. I went down with pneumonia bronchitis twice. Yes, thank God, we did have the royalties, but most of those were going off to, you know, pay the fact of the previous disasters. We also had to in effect borrow money, as well as use what we had, to develop Hope Downs,” she said.

“So many media think: OK, as soon as you get a tenement all that happens is that money gushes from it. There is nothing that could be further from the truth. To develop Hope Downs: it was so intense. There wasn’t a weekend off. There were endless 16-hour days; there was occasional overnights at the office. But we did it.”

The Hopes Down tenement is now the $1.3 billion Hopes Down mine, a 50/50 joint venture with Rio Tinto which began production in 2007. 

Rinehart went on to accuse her children of wanting "unearned things to keep falling from the sky" in response to the legal battle mounted over the family trust.

In May, Rinehart’s eldest children John Hancock and Bianca Rinehart, won a legal battle in the NSW Supreme Court over the control of the $4 billion Hope Margaret Hancock Trust.

In a separate proceeding, Rinehart is fighting the same pair over claims she engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct in relation to their share of the $10bn Roy Hill project. Rinehart denies these allegations.

Rinehart said it took “a hell of an effort” to save and build the company which in turn, increased the value of the trust – and accused her children of not appreciating the hard work.

“I think I’m very fortunate because I grew up in a very different way,” Rinehart said.

“And I think when you grow up – cement floors, tin rooves, um, having to amuse yourselves, understanding properly, you know, the importance of work – I think these are benefits that I’ve had.

“They say that if you give your children too much, they don’t get the joy out of work.”

Rinehart is moving closer to realising her father’s dream of owning a mine, with the $10 billion Roy Hill mine scheduled to export first ore in September.

The project undertook the largest funding package for any project worldwide, securing $4 billion in funding from export credit agencies and an additional $3 billion from commercial banks.

Rinehart said she’s looking forward to sailing out of Port Hedland with the first shipment of ore, and wished her father could share in the accomplishment.

Of the mine itself, Rinehart said it was vying to be the most technologically advanced in Australia, including the fastest conveyor-loading systems.

Family friend and Australian businessman John Singleton said most people quick to criticise Rinehart knew nothing about her.

“I think Gina’s continued success has staggered a number of people and angered a number of others. And… I don’t think people know anything about Gina,” Singleton said.

“Gina cops a lot of criticism and she doesn’t necessarily cop it well all the time. I think you’d be inhuman not to be hurt by it.”

Executive director of Hancock Prospecting, Tad Watroba, says the intense criticism levelled at Rinehart may have to do with the fact that she’s a woman in a traditionally male-dominated industry.

“I think it’s tough because being a woman she’s got to work probably three, four times harder than the blokes. Because blokes can get away with things but with women: women always get the criticism.”

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