Wright Prospecting has hit back at claims that it gave Hancock Prospecting a permanent stake in the Rhodes Ridge iron ore deposit in 1989, as the feuding dynasties continue their court battle over the Pilbara holding.
Barrister Rod Smith told the Supreme Court yesterday that Wright Prospecting had agreed in 1989 it would split the proceeds of the sale if Lang Hancock managed to sell the mine to a third party.
But he disputed claims that the agreement was still valid, saying it died with Mr Hancock in 1992 and that Mr Hancock's heirs had no claim to the deposit which was ceded to Peter Wright when the business partners carved up their assets.
It followed moves from Gina Rinehart's lawyers this week to cite the 1989 agreement as proof of permanent ownership, in their appeal against an earlier court decision forcing it to hand over its 25 per cent share of the deposit to Wright Prospecting.
Hancock Prospecting filed 23 grounds for appeal against the 2010 decision, which had wiped $530 million from Mrs Rinehart's personal wealth at the time.
The 2010 decision also denied Hancock Prospecting billions in potential earnings from the undeveloped iron ore mine.
In court yesterday, Mr Smith said the 1989 decision to give Mr Hancock half the proceeds if he managed to sell the mine was to compensate him for his talent and ability in selling such a major asset.
There had been some pressure from the State Government in 1989 to sell the mine, which was then valued at about $65 million, because there had not been any moves to develop it.
Mr Wright had died in 1985, and Mr Hancock was seen as the only other person with the skills and ability to negotiate such a deal.
Mr Smith said there was never any intention to hand over half the mine to Hancock Prospecting for the sake of it.
"In the real world, people don't behave that way," he told the court.
Mr Smith also rejected claims Wright Prospecting had failed to correctly follow procedures to legally assume ownership of the mine, which was held in joint control. Hancock Prospecting had alleged it failed to get ministerial consent, but Mr Smith said this consent was required at the end of the transfer process, not the start.