“Beauty,” says Australia’s richest person, Gina Rinehart, “is an iron mine.” In 1992, Rinehart inherited a fortune from her iron-magnate father Lang Hancock and has multiplied it hundreds of times over by acquiring large swaths of mineral-rich red land in Western Australia and spinning iron into gold.
The specter of Rinehart looms above the Australian landscape: an improbably wealthy, concrete-minded, broad-shouldered woman who spent more than a decade in legal and personal battles with her stepmother and three of her four children and insists nothing will come before the company she calls the House of Hancock. Mining, she says, will save resource-rich, prosperous Australia from ruin. The poor should drink less and work harder.
As her empire expands, the image-conscious Rinehart has begun to covet media control: she now owns a 10% stake in a TV station and about 15% of a newspaper company — but refused to sign an editorial charter of independence so has not been granted a board seat. This year, she was Forbes’ fifth richest woman in the world and is predicted to become the world’s richest person. That’s what makes iron mines beautiful.
Baird, an author based in Sydney, is working on a book about Queen Victoria
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