|Gina Rinehart, World's richest woman [Photo:BBC]|
The richest woman in the world, according to a respected business magazine, is not Oprah Winfrey, Queen Elizabeth II or L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt. It's a relatively unknown Australian mining magnate. So who exactly is Gina Rinehart?
Asked once to sum up her concept of beauty, Gina Rinehart did not point to the pearls that so often adorn her neck.
Nor did she rhapsodise about the ochre landscape of her beloved Pilbara, a beautiful, if unforgiving, expanse of land in the northwest corner of Australia.
Instead, she spoke of the unlovely commodity that has made her family rich, and the giant holes in the ground from where it came. "Beauty is an iron mine," she famously remarked.
When her father, Lang Hancock, discovered one of the world's biggest reserves in the early 1950s, the export of iron ore was banned in Australia because it was deemed such a scarce and finite resource.
Tens of thousands of iron ore shipments later, royalty payments from that Pilbara mining field in Western Australia continue to swell her coffers.
The Hancocks were not the sole beneficiaries. The multi-billionaire fervently believes that her father's discovery also made Australia prosperous, which partly drives her recent quest for influence, gratitude and respect.
It is partly borne of a lifelong sense of grievance - that Australia's traditional east coast elites have not recognised her family's contribution to the country's development, nor the local media.
With an estimated net personal wealth of $A29 billion ($US29.3bn, £18.79bn), Rinehart has in recent years gone from being Australia's richest woman to Asia's richest woman to arguably the world's.
Australian business magazine BRW has named her the world's wealthiest woman, and Citigroup has also predicted that the 58-year-old businesswoman will soon top the global rich list, with more than $100bn (£64.8bn) of assets to her name.
The royalty stream from that initial discovery - the "rivers of the gold," as it has been called - still contributes to her wealth, but it pales alongside the value attached to her mining interests in Western Australia and Queensland.
She hates being called a mining heiress because she considers herself a self-made businesswoman who turned her company around after her father's death in 1992.