Angela Bennett could be WA’s second $10 billion wife thanks to her family business Wright Prospecting’s new deal to support the development of the giant iron ore deposit at Rhodes Ridge.
After half a decade of running Rio Tinto on its hands, the iron ore giant has designated Rhodes Ridge as the center of development in the 2030s – confirming this week that the project holds a third of its existing Pilbara resources.
Ms. Bennett, the daughter of Peter Wright, the business partner of prospecting legend Lang Hancock, is already worth more than $4 billion thanks to her half stake in Wright Prospecting and smart investments of $100 million in annual dividend checks.
She will join Mr. Hancock’s daughter and biggest heir Gina Rinehart in the $10 billion club if Wright Prospecting will be even part of the way to mimic Rio and Mrs. Rinehart’s success in the nearby Hope Downs joint ventures, all northwest of Newman.
And her two nieces, Leonie Baldock and Alexandra Burt, could each be worth more than $5 billion if we end this decade with iron ore being transported from new Rhodes Ridge operations to Rio’s Dampier ports built on last century’s successes. by Mr. Wright and Mr. Hancock.
While Ms. Bennett has had her share of family fights, she has taken a much less active role in Wright Prospecting than Ms. Rinehart has with a jumble of assets, debt, and deals surrounding Hancock Prospecting.
She has used trusted professionals and family members — including Chief Financial Officer David McMahon and sons Todd and Paul — to guide business decisions at both her private AMB investment group and Wright Prospecting.
While Wright Prospecting receives annual royalty payments of up to $400 million from Rio Tinto, the family-owned company’s potentially greatest asset is a half share of the 6.7 billion-ton Rhodes Ridge deposit.
Rio has owned half of Rhodes Ridge for nearly 50 years.
But the other half was long entangled in the Hancock-Wright partnership.
Mr. Wright and Mr. Hancock agreed in 1984 that their entire half share of Rhodes Ridge would go to the Wright family upon their deaths. Mr. Wright died in 1985 and Mr. Hancock died in 1992.
But Ms. Rinehart refused to transfer the one-quarter stake in Hancock Prospecting, prompting Wright to mount a successful 12-year legal campaign that went all the way to the Supreme Court in 2013.
Wright Prospecting’s recent settlement of a feud with Rio Tinto over neighboring tenements has paved the way for the equal partners to proceed with Rhodes Ridge development.
Rio has set a modest initial annual production target of 40 million tons, about 12 million tons less than is produced from the smaller but also high-quality Hope Downs deposits.
Based on Rio’s cost and production performance of Hope Downs, the annual production of 40 million tons for Rhodes Ridge could bring about $1 billion in annual profit for Wright Prospecting.
Once the Rhodes Ridge joint venture takes on its likely status as a major ore source for Rio Tinto, those regular profits could well exceed $2 billion — and even more during the occasional price hikes.
Based on wealth models commonly used for wealthy lists, Ms. Bennett will be worth up to $13 billion if Rhodes Ridge is developed on a similar scale to the 60Mt Hancock-managed Roy Hill project.