If calculated guesses from some business quarters are to be believed, “the world’s richest person” could soon be a woman. Currently, women do not figure prominently on “most rich” lists. In Britain, only 105 of richest 1,000 are women. In the US, the number of ladies on Forbes’ rich list has halved since 1986. But an Australian woman could soon be on course to topple the the world’s current richest person, Carlos Slim, from his No. 1 position. The woman who is poised to create this upset in the near future is an Australian mining heiress named Georgina “Gina” Rinehart.
The reclusive Gina Rinehart is currently “Australia’s richest person”. According to a recent report she is on her way to becoming the world’s richest person, provided commodity prices continue to rise. Citigroup Global Markets, a division of American banking group Citibank, recently filed a 60-page report on global resource projects. Named Generation Next, this report focused on 400 mining projects that are not yet in production but will soon be. Topping this list are the leaders of the mining industry, corporations BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto, Xstrata and Anglo American. The Rinehart-owned Hancock Prospecting comes in fifth.
Fact is, that of all these big mining corporations, only Hancock Prospecting is owned by a single person. In the others, thousands of shareholders share ownership. What this means is that as Hancock Prospecting rises up the mining ladder, Rinehart’s personal wealth will also increase. The report by Citigroup Global Markets listed out the top 10 mining projects. Leading the pack was Rio Tinto with three projects. But even Rinehart managed to get three projects featured in this top 10 list. These are Roy Hill iron ore in WA, Alpha Coal in Queensland and Kevin’s Corner Coal, also in Queensland.
The start of mining production at the Hope Downs iron ore project has been hugely instrumental in generating cash flows for the Australian heiress. With its current production levels of 30 million tons a year, Hope Downs is presently generating revenues of $5 billion each year (assuming 1 ton of iron ore fetches $175). However, Hope Downs is on the expansion route. Once it reaches levels of 45 million tons a year, Rinehart’s revenues will increase by much more. While currently Rinehart is making profits of $1.9 billion from Hope Downs alone, the increased production could make her earnings surge to $2.8 billion. As her other projects near the production phase, Rinehart could soon be looking at a personal net worth of over $100 million. It is believed that if Hancock Prospecting was listed and traded publicly, Rinehart’s would immediately jump to a net worth of $30 billion. That jump would easily catapult her into the top 10 list of the world’s richest individuals.
In many ways, Rinehart is an unlikely candidate to become the richest person in the world. Hancock Prospecting was set up by her father Lang Hancock, a man known for his eccentric ways. Following his death, fought for and won control of the company from her stepmother, a Filipina nurse. Ever since, Rinehart has been steering the company from one success to another. Now she looks poised to enter the big league of the world’s richest.