Australia's Rinehart sued over ownership of Hope Downs

Gina Rinehart, the richest woman in Asia, faces the prospect of losing some assets in Western Australia's Pilbara region, including a mine under development by Rio Tinto, after she was sued by the family of her father's former partner.

According to Wright Prospecting founder Peter Wright, who along with Gina's father Lang Hancock discovered the deposits, Hancock Prospecting had been making commercial decisions regarding the properties without the involvement of Wright Prospecting.

Wright said yesterday that Wright Prospecting was now trying to recover its interest in those tenements referring to part of the Hope Downs property and seeking 50 per cent of Hancock's stake in the Hope Downs 4, 5 and 6 tenements, Bloomberg News reported citing a copy of the writ filed in the Supreme Court of Western Australia.

The Hope Downs assets are jointly owned by Hancock Prospecting and Rio after a 2005 agreement and Hope Downs 4, owned 50 per cent by Rio, would have annual capacity of 15 million tonnes once it was operational next year. It would cost $1.6 billion to build, according to an August statement from Rio.

London-based Rio has undertaken expansion of its iron-ore mines in the Pilbara region, which would take annual iron ore production at the mine to 353 million tonnes by the first half of 2015 from the current capacity of 230 million tonnes.

Hancock faces accusations of breach of trust for the sale of the Hope Downs property without its consent and breaching of fiduciary obligations.