Mining magnate Gina Rinehart tops rich list

The daughter of mining magnate Lang Hancock has been officially named as Australia’s richest person.

In the last year she more than tripled her worth and US magazine Forbes estimates her worth at $US9 billion , pushing her ahead of fellow miner Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest.

Rinehart made almost $700 million in revenue from the first year of her joint venture with Rio Tinto in the Pilbara and in the 2008-09 financial year, Hancock Prospecting made a record profit of $225 million.

This figure amounts to almost the entire fortune her father left when he died, even after adjustments for inflation.

She’s made headlines recently for her interest in media companies, and in December she almost doubled her stake in Fairfax Media to hold just under 4 per cent of the newspaper, digital and radio group.

Her stake puts her behind The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian Financial Review and is worth $120 million.

It’s understood Rinehart increased on her shares after her 2 per cent holdings in Fairfax became public knowledge.

In November she paid $165.6 million for 10 per cent of Ten Network Holdings, to join fellow fortune holders James Packer, Lachlan Murdoch and Bruce Gordon on the Broadcaster’s Board.

Following the surprise investment in Ten, Hancock Prospecting released a short statement saying it was “interested in making an investment towards the media business given its importance to the nation’s future.”

She’s also quietly rebuilding her father’s legacy, as most of his iron ore holdings were lost or sold before Rinehart took over, according to her company.

It also said the magnate was bankrupt when he died and royalties from his deal with Rio Tinto went on debts.

The deposit making so much money now was then “a few drill holes”.

”When Mrs Rinehart became chairman it was very difficult to do the investment and work required with substantial debts and liabilities to pay and even the office building mortgaged,” Hancock Prospecting said in a recent statement.

"’There was no ‘inherited money’ to fund Hope Downs [deposit]; significant moneys had to be borrowed to do so.”

Following journalist Tim Treadgold’s suggestion she was riding the “same flatbed” truck as her father, Rinehart published an open letter to dispute claims she had an easy ride.

“Silly attacks on people to divert attention from the real world issues won’t help Australia,” she wrote.

Gina Rinehart took over her father’s company when he died 20 years ago, making her the first woman to hold the position.

She studied economics at the University of Sydney, and twice married.

She is once divorced, once widowed.

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