Australian mining magnate Gina Rinehart became the world’s richest woman as her fortune almost tripled to A$29.2 billion ($28.6 billion), according to a ranking of the nation’s wealthiest people by BRW magazine.
Rinehart, who controls Hancock Prospecting Pty Ltd., soared past Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s Christy Walton, whose wealth is estimated at A$26 billion, BRW said in a statement today.
The 58-year-old Australian, who had a fortune of A$10.3 billion last year, remained at the top of the list of Australia’s 200 wealthiest people for the second consecutive year, helped by foreign investment in new projects, increased production and a recovery in iron-ore prices, BRW said. Rinehart is ranked the 31st richest person in the world, with a net worth of $18.1 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
“If the demand for natural resources remains strong, additional multi-billion mines are almost inevitable,” Andrew Heathcote, BRW Rich List editor, said in the statement. “There is a real possibility that Rinehart will become not just the richest woman in the world but the richest person in the world.”
Mexican Carlos Slim now holds that position, with a personal fortune of $66.2 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
Rinehart inherited mining assets from her father, Lang Hancock, who discovered iron ore deposits in the Pilbara region of Western Australia in the 1950s, and has been expanding them to help feed growing demand for resources from countries including China.
Rinehart has an agreement with Rio Tinto Group under which she collects royalties on some properties in Western Australia mined by Rio. She agreed in August to sell coal projects in Queensland to GVK Power & Infrastructure Ltd. for $2.2 billion.
Rinehart is also expanding her media holdings, increasing her stake in Fairfax Media Ltd. to 12.6 percent in February from 4.9 percent earlier. She first ventured into media in 2010 after buying a 10 percent stake in Ten Network Holdings Ltd. and gaining a seat on the company’s board.
She is fighting a lawsuit by three of her children who have accused her of abusing her role as trustee of a multi billion-dollar fund and have sought to have her removed.
Rinehart has given her children the option to remove assets from the trust, making further litigation unnecessary, her lawyer Paul McCann said on May 10.