Australia’s richest man Gina Rinehart knew an iron ore-rich tenement from which her company made billions was jointly owned by another company before she signed a deal with Rio Tinto to mine it, a court has been told.
The heirs of Lang Hancock’s former business partner Peter Wright are fighting in the Supreme Court of Western Australia for a multibillion-dollar stake in a series of Hope Downs properties he and Ms Rinehart’s late father discovered in the 1950s.
Their lawyer, Julie Taylor, said dozens of letters written by Mr. Hancock over the decades showed he worked on the men’s partnership agreements to secure tenements for the area and open it up to mining.
A February 20, 1986, letter to Ms. Rinehart discussed Mr. Hancock’s efforts to divide some of Hancock Prospecting’s assets between himself and his daughter.
It details several tenements, some of which Mrs. Rinehart is fighting to keep, including the East Angeles now known as Hope Downs Four, which were held jointly by the Hancock and Wright business partnership.
Gina Rinehart, Australia’s richest man, knew an iron ore-rich tenement from which her company made billions was jointly owned by another company before she signed a deal to mine it with Rio Tinto, a court has been told.
“This is very important evidence that both Lang and Ms. Rinehart knew and understood that all of these areas were jointly held for the partnership,” Ms. Taylor said Tuesday.
‘(Hancock Prospecting) owned at most half (of the shares).
‘Mrs Rinehart has known since at least February 1986 that the position of these assets is that they are held jointly with the partnership.’
Ms Taylor told Justice Jennifer Smith that the letter came from discovery documents provided by Ms Rinehart’s two eldest children, John Hancock and Bianca Rinehart, not Hancock Prospecting.
The couple are involved in complex litigation, claiming they are entitled to a larger share of the Hope Downs operation because their grandfather left them the property.
The court heard Mr Hancock called Mr Wright’s children to a meeting shortly after their father died in 1985 and told them he was managing the assets on behalf of the partnership.
‘This is Hope Downs, this is Hancock and Wright’, he said of the tenements held jointly by the men, including their East Angeles, as he referred to a map and these were ‘parts of both of us’.
‘Lang is indicating that areas are subject to the entitlements of both partners,’ said Ms Taylor.
About two dozen lawyers packed a Perth court for the trial, which began on Monday, but none of Ms Rinehart, her children or Mr Wright’s surviving heirs were seen.
The heirs of Lang Hancock’s former business partner Peter Wright are fighting in the Western Australian Supreme Court for a multi-billion dollar share in a series of Hope Downs (pictured) properties he and Ms Rinehart’s late father discovered in the 1950s.
DFD Rhodes, the family company of the late prospector Don Rhodes, was also represented in court and claimed a 1.25 per cent royalty share of Hope Downs’ production in a deal with Mr Hancock and Mr Wright that handed over the tenement in the 1960s.
The trial is expected to last until November, with a possible ruling resulting from a Federal Court arbitration on the same issue between Hancock Prospecting and Ms. Rinehart’s children.
Ms Rinehart inherited her father’s iron ore discoveries in WA’s Pilbara region and built a mining empire after he died in 1992.
He developed the mine from tenements discovered by Mr Hancock and Mr Wright at Hope Downs, signing a deal in 2005 with Rio Tinto, which has a 50 per cent stake in the project.
Peter Wright’s daughter, Angela Bennett (pictured), could be set to receive damages from legal action linked to one of the country’s most successful iron ore projects.
His net worth is approximately $36 billion and he is the executive chair of Hancock Prospecting.
The Hope Downs iron ore mining complex consists of four open-pit mines near Newman.
It produces over 45 million tonnes per year and is one of Australia’s largest and most successful iron ore projects.
Right Prospecting claimed a share of the unmined and mined Hope Downs tenement and royalty.
Hancock Prospecting maintains that it has done all the work, bears the financial risk associated with the development and is the rightful owner of the asset.