Rhodes Ridge court battle resumes
Rhodes Ridge court battle resumes

The decade-long battle between Gina Rinehart and the Wright family over the multibillion-dollar Rhodes Ridge iron ore deposit resumes today, for a four-day hearing in the State's Court of Appeal.

Wright Prospecting, controlled by Michael Wright's estate and his sister Angela Bennett, will defend the appeal launched by Mrs Rinehart's Hancock Prospecting.

Mr Wright died in April after a fight with cancer.

Mrs Rinehart lost her 25 per cent stake in the giant ore body near Newman in 2010 after Supreme Court Justice Michael Murray ruled in favour of Wright Prospecting, increasing its share to 50 per cent. Mining giant Rio Tinto owns the other half.

The move wiped hundreds of millions of dollars from Ms Rinehart's personal wealth and billions in potential earnings from the undeveloped site. She is still worth an estimated $29 billion.

Her father Lang Hancock, with Mr Wright's and Mrs Bennett's father Peter Wright, forged a mining empire on a handshake. The men attempted to carve up their assets in a 1984 deal - which was upheld by Justice Murray - but failed in their bid to avoid fights between their descendants.

Mr Wright described the court battle, in which he helped prepare 413,711 pages of legal documents, as the most frustrating and exhausting period of his life.

But he claimed he could not drop the matter because it would have had an impact on his children, and because it was what "the two old fellas" would have wanted.

"It hurts to the extent that it's unnecessary, and it is taking a considerable period of my time at this time of my life," Mr Wright said in a rare interview last year.

Ms Rinehart has maintained consistently that a 1989 agreement had provided the Hancock family with a permanent stake in Rhodes Ridge. She is expected to take the fight to the High Court if she is unsuccessful in the Court of Appeal.

The deposit is estimated to hold at least three billion tonnes of high-grade iron ore, and is close to the Hope Downs mines' rail lines.

The West Australian

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