Rinehart fulfils family dream
Gina Rinehart has finally fulfilled the decades-old dream of her family mining dynasty, waving goodbye to Port Hedland from the bridge of the ship carrying her first load of ore to Asia recently.
Mrs Rinehart’s voyage on the MV Anangel Explorer lasted only an hour and it was days before the 105,000 tonnes of Roy Hill iron ore was to reach its first customer, the Korean steel mills of Roy Hill partowner POSCO.
But Mrs Rinehart’s excitement at the departure ceremony was obvious when, in front of a small group of Roy Hill staff, senior representatives of its other shareholders, and contractors, she said the day was the fulfilment of the dreams of her and her father, legendary WA prospector Lang Hancock.
“It was always our Hancock Prospecting vision that we would move from the early days of exploration and development by others to where our company took increasing roles towards the lead and developed a deposit independently,” she said.
Companies founded by Mr Hancock and then business partner Peter Wright are credited with doing much of the early work in finding and defining the Pilbara’s vast iron ore deposits.
Despite discovering many of the deposits that underpin WA’s Pilbara iron ore industry, neither founder of the Hanwright partnership ever managed to bring an iron ore mine into production.
It was not until Mrs Rinehart took control of Hancock Prospecting that new life was breathed back into the dream. Until the re- cent shipment from Roy Hill, the closest Hancock Prospecting had come was the development of the Hope Downs deposits.
Roy Hill was pegged in 1992, about the same time a State Agreement was signed for Hope Downs, Mrs Rinehart’s first option to build her own mine.
But no way could be found to break the port and rail infrastructure stranglehold of the region’s two biggest players, Rio Tin- to and BHP Billiton, and Hope Downs stalled.
When Mrs Rinehart made the surprise decision in 2005 to bring in Rio Tinto as half-owner and operator of the joint venture, many saw it as her last chance to fulfil the family dream.
By 2010, Roy Hill’s building blocks began to fall in place as it attracted a cash investment from POSCO.
Over the ensuing years, Mrs Rinehart dredged shipping berths in Port Hedland and began construction after working hard to bring in billions of dollars of investment.
The task now will be to get Roy Hill up to full capacity by the end of next year, at a time of far-softer iron ore prices.
Roy Hill still carries $US7.2 billion in debt and to pay that back may be Mrs Rinehart’s biggest challenge yet.
Gina Rinehart with her daugther Ginia.