Hardcore riches of the iron ore magnate who is wealthiest woman on the planet

By Kathy Marks

In the half-hour it took you to get ready for work this morning, Gina Rinehart earned more than a million dollars.

Her gross pay today will be nearly US$50m (£32m). The Australian mining magnate is not just minted; she is now the world's richest woman.

According to BRW magazine, which publishes an annual list of the 200 most moneyed Australians, Mrs Rinehart's fortune has nearly tripled in the past year to $28.5bn. That means she has leapfrogged Christy Walton, the Wal-Mart heiress, who is valued at $25.3bn.

Some predict Mrs Rinehart could be worth $100bn within years – eclipsing Carlos Slim, the Mexican telecommunications tycoon, as the world's richest person.

The key to her mind-boggling riches lies in the remote Pilbara region of Western Australia, home to vast reserves of high-quality iron ore.

Mrs Rinehart's father, Lang Hancock, was the first to recognise the area's potential, and she inherited A$75m (£46.5m at today's rates) from him in 1992. Now, she is worth 386 times as much. The statistics are mind-boggling. This time last year, the 58 year-old's wealth was estimated by BRW to be A$10.3bn. As recently as March, Forbes put it at US$18bn. So rapidly have the zeros multiplied on Mrs Rinehart's bank statements that, despite the global uncertainty, the combined wealth of the 200 richest Australians has risen by 8.4 per cent. Without her, it would have fallen by 3.1 per cent.

Whether she is happy is another matter. As the dollars poured in, with demand for iron ore fuelled by China's rapid industrialisation, three of her children – John, Hope and Bianca – mounted a lawsuit last September to oust her as head of the family trust.

In March, Mrs Rinehart lost a battle to have details of the dispute kept secret. In emails released by the court, her children complained of being starved of funds and implored her to buy them chefs and bodyguards. Hope lamented that she was "down to my last $60,000". The tycoon's youngest daughter, Ginia, the only one to have sided with her, has reportedly been anointed to take over. Ginia – who, like her siblings, enjoyed a childhood few could imagine – was presented with a A$1.2m Rolls-Royce at the age of 25.

But Mrs Rinehart also tried to teach her children the importance of earning money, according to The House of Hancock, a recent book. She paid them $6 an hour to pick weeds in the sprawling grounds of their Perth mansion. In the book, her first husband, Greg Milton recalled being forced to sit on a blanket in the family garage during access visits. He soon cut all ties with his children.