Their story, now spanning two generations, could be a history of the modern Australian mining industry, beginning in the years when there was a bizarre ban on iron ore exports – there was little of the mineral in Australia, apparently – to the current position in which it is one of the two giants in international trade, so important that when its price fell sharply in recent times, it shook the budgets of federal and state governments, and damaged the economy.
The Pilbara iron ore industry has been a major contributor to the emergence of China as one of the two dominant economies.
Lang Hancock and now his daughter Georgina, more usually known as Gina, Rinehart have played major roles in this transformation.
When Lang assumed the role of prophet, declaring to an incredulous Australia that the Pilbara would become a major force in world resources, it was his tireless proselyting, his badgering of ministers and company chairmen, which led to the early breakthrough.
His campaign would not be cited in manuals of slick public relations practice – he was often blunt, undiplomatic, and impatient with the glacial speed of government decision making.
His partner Peter Wright often had the role of peacemaker in negotiations with companies and governments.
Gina, who has presided over a massive increase in the reach of the family company, has much of her father’s direct style and impatience with bureaucratic barriers.
She is also the patron saint of lawyers with an almost constant stream of litigation.
A lawyer involved in some of disputes estimates that the documentation involved in just one of the issues Gina has pursued would be the equivalent of several million pages of material.
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