There’s something about getting an unexpected windfall that bring out the nasty side of people. We’ve all heard of the divorces caused by winning the lottery, but the constant legal warfare in the Wright and Hancock families over their billions in iron ore royalties is something to behold.

The AFR today had an excellent summary of the various legal battles inside each family and now between them over. Both families are intensely private and must really hate each other if they are prepared to put it all on the table for the world to see.

This airing of dirty laundry comes at an interesting time in WA as the CCC trawls over the way Brian Burke and Julian Grill tried to manipulate what happens to the iron-ore industry.

Given the riches that have been created for Rio Tinto, BHP and the Wright and Bennett families, it does raise the question as to how Fortescue Metals founder Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest found himself worth almost $2 billion on paper before he’s even got an operating mine.

The Australian’s business commentator Matthew Stevens was alluding to this earlier in the week, pointing out that Fortescue has received extraordinarily fast approvals from the WA state Labor government. As we all know, Twiggy has been one of Burke’s best paying clients over the past few years and it would be fascinating to no more about how he actually scored his various mining leases and approvals.

Twiggy lost a worker  to Cyclone George at the Fortescue Metals rail camp near Port Hedland overnight, which happens to be on a lease owned by Gary Morgan’s Haoma Mining. This hasn’t stopped Fortescue rising 4c to $17.69 this morning.

Indeed, despite the ravages of Cyclone George, Moly Mines today soared another 28c to $1.94. Mining industry insiders reckon they are close to announcing plans to develop their mine near Marble Bar, but they haven’t yet deigned to tell the market, as this denial on 28 February shows.

Twiggy is chairman and a major shareholder in Moly Mines. It seems old habits die hard.

Peter Fray

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