The August iron ore price meltdown has slashed the estimated worth of Australia's two richest people by more than $5.5 billion.

Since the beginning of the financial year, iron ore prices have fallen by about $US45 per tonne, to about $US90t, taking the share prices of the big miners with them.

WestBusiness estimates put the damage to the net worth of Australia's two richest people, Gina Rinehart and Andrew Forrest, at about $4.6 billion.

Fortescue Metals Group shares hit a recent peak of $5.05 in early July but had slumped to $3.59 by close yesterday, despite a $39 million share buying spree by Mr Forrest over the past two days aimed at demonstrating support for the company.

Since early July almost $1.5 billion has been wiped off the value of Mr Forrest's holding in Fortescue, as analysts cast doubt on its ability to repay debt if lower iron ore prices continue.

Based on _WestBusiness _ analysis, the value of Mrs Rinehart's operating iron ore portfolio - which includes conservative valuation of her royalties from a number of Rio Tinto-run Pilbara mines and a profit share from the giant Hope Downs joint venture - could have plunged by $4.1 billion-plus in that time.

That's enough for $12,700 annual payments for 323,000 dole recipients for a year, and comes after Mrs Rinehart on Wednesday said that those jealous of the wealthy should cut down on drinking, smoking and socialising. The analysis ascribes no value to the yet-to-be developed Roy Hill mine.

Aquila Resources' Tony Poli took an $87 million hit to the value of his shares. Aquila hit a share price low last month but has since recovered. After selling a coal asset late last financial year Aquila was carrying about $500 million in cash and liquid assets, and was not as sensitive to the iron ore price.

Even smaller players were affected. The 2.7 million Atlas Iron shares owned by founder and chairman David Flanagan lost $1.9 million of their paper value since early July, to $3.8 million.

Almost $1.5 billion has been wiped off the value of Forrest's holding.

The West Australian

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