One of the richest people in the world is getting just that little bit richer.
Even before last week, Gina Rinehart was worth about $17bn (£11.2bn), according to the Forbes rich list, making the mining magnate Australia’s wealthiest person by a comfortable stretch.
That figure is about to swell a little more, however, after resource giant Rio Tinto was ordered to pay royalties expected to total about A$200m (£123m) to Mrs Rinehart and another mining family, following a dispute about a decades-old iron ore agreement.
After all, if there is one thing the tycoon has shown she knows how to do, it is how to make money from iron ore, used to make steel gobbled up by growing economies.
The 59-year-old inherited her business interests from her father, Lang Hancock, a mining pioneer in outback Western Australia, but has insisted she was left with debts and no “inherited money” when he died in 1992.
What is indisputable is that under her leadership Hancock Prospecting, of which she is chairman, has reaped billions from the country’s China-fuelled mining boom, directly driving her own personal wealth.
It is possible that she will become the world’s richest women, a title currently thought to be held by Liliane Bettencourt, the L’Oreal heiress worth $30bn - though calculations vary, and some sources have in the past already handed Rinehart that title.
But hers is not proving a smooth ride, with her mining empire faced with warnings of a looming iron ore glut, amid tense relations with politicians, press and the public.
At home, Mrs Rinehart is a divisive figure - and, it seems, increasingly so, as she ventures beyond her usual territory to buy up media interests and influence public debate.
The mother-of-four refuses interviews, but is by no means a shrinking violet, known for her outspoken pronouncements in speeches and articles and, even, a polemical verse dubbed the 'universe’s worst poem’. (One memorable section read: '... embrace multiculturalism and welcome short term foreign workers to our shores / To benefit from the export of our minerals and ores’.)
She has ruffled feathers by warning her fellow Australians they must compete with African workers earning $2 a day - not a message that went over well from a billionaire - and has called for the creation of a special economic zone across resource-rich northern Australia, where she wants fewer regulations and taxes.
Her positions have led her into open dispute with the Gillard Government, as she has actively campaigned against the introduction of mining and carbon taxes. On Friday last week, she accused politicians of viewing miners as “ATMs for everyone else to draw from without that money first having to be earned”.
No doubt the chief executives of many public mining companies would privately share her sentiments to some degree - but would not set themselves at loggerheads with politicians in this way.
Not so Mrs Rinehart, who has provoked the Treasurer, Wayne Swan, to insist he will not bow to her “almost-daily pearl-rattling” a none-too-subtle reference to the billionaire’s fondness for large pearl necklaces.
Politics is not the only front on which she is fighting. Aside from her recent court victory against Rio Tinto (Xetra: 855018 - news) , she remains locked in a range of torrid legal battles, including a long-running dispute with two of her children over control of the family fortunes.
She is also battling fellow mining heiress Angela Bennett with whom she teamed up in last week’s win against Rio Tinto - and has taken legal action to try to expose the sources of two Australian journalists, including Adele Ferguson, a reporter employed by Fairfax Media, in which she is the largest individual shareholder. Mrs Rinehart has no seat on the board, however, as she would not sign the publisher’s charter of editorial independence.
Her unpopularity with many Australians comes as no surprise, then. And yet, the noise around her personality and politics masks very real business nous.
An Australian expert on the mining sector, Dr Jason West from Griffith University, said Mrs Rinehart has been more successful than other home-grown mining entrepreneurs because she dares to relinquish direct control of her assets, hiring hungry young managers who are readier to take risks.
“A lot of the other entrepreneurs who own these tenements and had good quality assets have never been able to get it to market the way she has,” he told the Daily Telegraph . “She has appointed younger people to take risks and adopt her vision. She demands complete loyalty - and she gets that.”
And while bigger rivals have been posting massive writedowns on ill-advised growth projects, even swinging to losses for the first time in years, Hancock Prospecting posted an Aus$3.2bn annual profit earlier this month - although underlying earnings dropped 12pc due to lower iron ore prices and higher costs.
The company has warned that profits are likely to fall this year, amid a broader global mining slowdown that has curbed investment and caused falls in commodity prices.
Yet it is close to fulfilling the magnate’s long-held dream to develop the Aus$10bn Roy Hill iron ore mine in Western Australia’s Pilbara region.
Analysts at Liberum Capital warn that Roy Hill, along with rival major iron ore projects are at “high risk of being delayed”, given the oversupply they believe the market could face over the next couple of years, as mines years in the making finally come into production.
Still, it would take more than that to seriously dent Mrs Rinehart’s vast wealth. And, despite the region’s recent mining slowdown, the long-term outlook for her resource interests looks rosy as the vast economic development of India and China continues to gobble up steel.
“She is in the right place at the right time,” said Dr West, “but she is making the most of it.”