Rinehart, Bennet suing Rio Tinto for Pilbara rights

Australia’s two richest women, Gina Rinehart and Angela Bennet, are putting aside past rivalries to sue Rio Tinto for a larger share of the iron ore in Western Australia.

Reinhart is the heir to the Hancock mining fortune left behind by her father, as well as that she has created in her own right through new ventures both in mining and with other ventures, including Australian media.

Bennet and her brother Michael Wright, heirs to the Wright iron ore fortune, will join Rinehart in the quest to lessen the grip Rio has in the state.

They are suing the mining giant for the rights to iron ore in the Pilbara, seeking an estimated $136 million in past royalties from twenty years ago, News Ltd reports.

Even if iron ore prices halved in the next few years, a successful lawsuit would see the companies bring in an extra $25 million per year in royalties.

The court has not confirmed the figures, based on the production of mines for almost two decades.

The three mining heirs are accusing Rio of blocking them out of royalties in a deal made in May 1970, relating to royalties from land which later developed into the Channar and Eastern Range mines.

Channar has produced 190 million tonnes of iron ore in its 19 years of production, while the Eastern Ranges, which has been running since 2004, produces six million tonnes a year.

Rio has denied it owes the companies anything, arguing that they relinquished control of the land where the Eastern Ranges and part of the Channar mines are located in 1974.

Rio regained the rights to the land in 1979 and has continued to pay royalties to the descendants of the Hancock and Wright companies on some sections of the Channar mine that have remained in Rio’s control since 1970.

The case, currently in pre-trial stages, will begin on 7 October.

Lawyers for all parties have declined to comment on the issue.



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