Pamela G. Hollie, “The ‘Richest Man’ in Australia,” The New York Times, December 12, 1982, p. 8, sec. 3 (reporting from Perth).
Lang Hancock made a bundle in iron ore. Now, at 73, he has a new plan to get richer.
Langley George Hancock must have seen the documentary Dig a Million, Make a Million at least 100 times since it was made in the late 1960’s. It stars a much younger, stockier Lang Hancock as himself, a tough-talking Australian prospector; the late Tom Price, the right-hand man of the late industrialist Henry Kaiser, as the prospector’s American sidekick, and A.W. Clausen, then a Bank of America vice president, as the banker who helps the prospector and Kaiser Steel strike a deal to explore and mine the prospector’s iron ore El Dorado in the Hamersley Range. The film ends happily with the prospector flying off into the Australian sunset.
Mr Hancock has reason to get great satisfaction from the film. It depicts his home state of Western Australia as Australia’s Texas, a state of open spaces, mineral wealth and unlimited opportunity. It shows an independent, resourceful and unorthodox Lang Hancock demonstrating the John Wayne-like qualities that have made him a business legend in Australia. And it is a testament, in somewhat faded hues, to the legend of the “lucky country,” which holds that people who live here are lucky. Mr Hancock has reason to believe in that luck.
In November 1952, Lang Hancock was piloting a small plane from asbestos mines in the north to Perth when a storm forced him to fly low over the Hamersley Range in central Western Australia. “Flying low, I followed the gorge,” he remembered. “I noticed the walls. They were made of iron ore, but I figured it had to be poor grade. At the time, they said Australia didn’t have any grade iron ore,” he said. “I followed the iron ore in the walls for 70 miles.”
Now Lang Hancock is said to be Australia’s richest man. His personal trust company is the holder of mining titles, by act of the state parliament of Western Australia government, that are said to contain more high-grade ore than the total high-grade reserves of the United State and Canada combined. When the ore is extracted, Mr Hancock and his 28-year-old daughter, who is taking over the company from her father, get 2.5 percent royalties on every spadeful.
“The total reserves of the Hamersley iron field are 400 percent more valuable than the total calculated reserves” of oil in the Middle East, Mr Hancock said.
Because the actual value of Hamersley ore deposits has never been proven and Mr Hancock’s company, Hancock Prospecting, is privately held an all of his assets are in his personal trust, many of his claims go unchallenged. But Government projections estimate that there is enough iron ore in Western Australia to supply Australia, Japan and possibly many other world markets well into the 21st Century. “If the reserves are handled properly, Australia can be prosperous for decades,” said Mr Hancock, who is convinced that his development plans for Australia will guarantee that the “lucky country” retains its reputation.
At 73, Mr Hancock is planning the crowning achievement of his career: the building of two $1 billion projects. When completed, he says, they will free Australia from its economic reliance on Japan, open up its vast resources to exploration and of course, raise the extraction from ore mines where Mr Hancock gets a royalty.
The two projects call for the building of a railroad and deep-water port in the state of Western Australia for iron ore, and another railroad and deep-water port in the state of Queensland on the east coast for the export of steam coal. In time, he sees a link between the two states, a transcontinental railway to haul iron ore from the west to a steel mill in the east.
There are snags, of course. The fizzling of the Australian resources boom during the world recession has made the state government of Western Australia dubious about Mr Hancock’s grand ideas. Mr Hancock’s response to what he sees as government foot-dragging has been to initiate a one-man secessionist movement.
Because Western Australians generally feel that the riches of the west end up supporting businessmen in the east, Mr Hancock’s campaign is not considered eccentric here. In fact, Mr Hancock wins many supporters whenever he cranks up his campaign in response to one politician or another irking him.
“Government represents the blind leading the mentally decrepit,” he says. “Western Australia has the potential to be the richest place on earth, but it will not reach its potential while it remains part of the Australian federation under the present constitution,” he says.
Now he thinks he is on his way to succeeding in his two projects. Finsider, a holding company of the Italian state-owned steel and engineering group, I.R.I., has indicated that it is willing to finance the project and may form a consortium with two other Italian companies, Finmeccanica and Impresit, which would accept iron ore as partial payment for their investment.
He sees the area as the Ruhr of Australia. He is further encouraged in his plans by the support of the Queensland government under its premier, Johannes Bjelke-Petersen. Queensland apparently is eager to proceed with its portion of the project. “We should have begun long ago,” the premier told newsmen recently.
Talk of creating an Australian Ruhr, however, has not been popular in Australia, particularly among the environmentalists, aboriginal land rights advocates and public interest groups who stand in the way of Mr Hancock’s projects. “If people really realised what proper use of resources could bring in terms of employment and prosperity, I think we would have fewer problems,” said Gina Hayward, Mr Hancock’s daughter and business partner. To educate Australia, Mrs Hayward decided to ferry diplomats, businessmen and community leaders around Australia’s major mineral sites so that they could see the techniques of mining, environmental control and safety. She called it Wage Up Australia. “My father and I are convinced that Australia’s future lies solely in economic strength through the correct use of our mineral and energy resources,” she said.
Mr Hancock’s dream of national projects as well as his views about business and government have been adopted by his daughter, who is the heir apparent to the Hancock empire. When her father opens his office door, he looks directly into her office opposite his. “My father and I are very close,” said Mrs Hayward, the Hancock’s only child. Her mother, according to Mrs Hayward, had in the past traveled on business with Mr Hancock, but she is now too ill to do so. Mr Hancock continues his activity despite a heart condition.
From the time she was 12, Gina Hayward has been at her father’s side. She has traveled with him to promote the sale of iron ore around the world. She has met with heads of state and learned first hand the tactics that earned her father his nickname, “the bull” — his refusal to take “no” for an answer and his bull-headedness. When she felt he needed her, she dropped out of college to be his partner and confidante. Now that he has had to take it easy after a heart attack, Mrs Hayward, a divorced mother of two, began to take over the prospecting company.
Unlike her father, she is very soft spoken, almost shy, but like her father she is very folksy and unpretentious. Though she envisions a time when Hancock Prospecting will go public in order to raise money for exploration, she doesn’t anticipate that the company will ever be large. Right now, the company is very small, essentially her, her father and a small office staff on the second floor of a modest building that has a “for lease” sign posted on the front lawn.
The Hancocks don’t flaunt their wealth. Mr. Hancock’s only extravagance is his jet, a Learjet that he uses to shuttle between appointments in Asia, Europe and the Middle East. When he is in Perth, he usually spends his time at the office, sitting among his secession campaign literature, writing his own letters and proposals. The man who is said to be the richest man in Australia uses an ordinary ballpoint pen and wears white socks with his black shoes.
- Ron Manners’ Heroic Misadventures
- Hancock's Australia
- Hancock on Government Help
- Wake Up Australia: Excerpts Part 1
- Wake Up Australia: Excerpts Part 2
- Lang Hancock's Five Point Plan to Cripple Australia
- Governments Consume Wealth — They Don't Create It
- Up the Workers! Bob Howard's 1979 Workers Party Reflection in Playboy
- Jump on the Joh bandwagon
- John Singleton and Bob Howard 1975 Monday Conference TV Interview on the Workers Party
- Governments — like a red rag to a Rogue Bull
- Lang Hancock's Pilbara-Queensland Railway Proposal
- Singo, Howard and Hancock Want to Secede
- Lang Hancock's Foreword to Rip Van Australia
- New party will not tolerate bludgers: Radical party against welfare state
- Small and Big Business Should Oppose Government, says Lang Hancock
- A Condensed Case for Secession
- Hancock gets tough over uranium mining
- Hancock's threat to secede and faith in Whitlam
- PM's sky-high promise to Lang
- Lang Hancock: "a catherine-wheel of novel suggestions"
- Govt "villain" in eyes of new party
- The spread of Canberra-ism
- Govt should sell the ABC, says Lang Hancock
- 1971 Monday Conference transcript featuring Lang Hancock
- Aborigines, Bjelke and the freedom of the press
- The code of Lang Hancock
- Why not starve the taxation monster?
- Lang Hancock 1978 George Negus Interview
- Party Promises to Abolish Tax
- Right-wing plot
- "The best way to help the poor is not to become one of them." - Lang Hancock
- WA's NCP commits suicide
- "You can't live off a sacred site"
- Hancock: King of the Pilbara
- Bludgers need not apply
- New party formed "to slash controls"
- Workers Party Reunion Intro
- Workers Party is born as foe of government
- Government seen by new party as evil
- Ron Manners on Lang Hancock
- Does Canberra leave us any alternative to secession?
- Bury Hancock Week
- Ron Manners on the Workers Party
- Lang Hancock on Australia Today
- Hancock and Wright
- Lang Hancock on Environmentalists
- Friends of free enterprise treated to financial tete-a-tete: Lang does the talking but Gina pulls the strings
- Lang Hancock, Stump Jumper
- Lang Hancock: giant of the western iron age
- The Treasury needs a hatchet man
- We Mine to Live
- Get the "econuts" off our backs
- 1971 Lang Hancock-Jonathan Aitken interview for Land of Fortune (short)
- Gina Rinehart, Secessionist
- 1982 NYT Lang Hancock profile
- Enter Rio Tinto
- Hamersley and Tom Price
- News in the West
- Positive review of Hancock speech
- Lang Hancock International Press Institute General Assembly speech, Canberra, 1978
- Australia's slide to socialism
- The Great Claim Robbery
- Why WA must go it alone
- Lang Hancock in 1976 on Public Picnics and Human Blights
- MILLIONAIRE PUTS MONEY BEHIND SECESSIONISTS
- Resource Management in Australia: Is it possible?
- The gospel of WA secession according to Lang Hancock
- Crystal Balls Need Polishing
- Minerals - politicians' playthings?
- John Singleton-Ita Buttrose interview (1977)
- Boston Tea Party 1986 style, hosted by Lang Hancock and Bob Ansett
- Singo says Lang Hancock violated Australia's 11th commandment: Thou Shalt Not Succeed
- Singleton: the White Knight of Ockerdom
- Tactics change by Hancock
- Lang Hancock complains to Margaret Thatcher about Malcolm Fraser
- 'Phony crisis' seen as 'child of politics'
- Lang Hancock on nuclear energy
- Lang Hancock beats the left at their own game on civil liberties
- Lang Hancock's Favourite Books
- 1977 Lang Hancock Canberoo poem
- Hancock's playing very hard to get
- Hancock proposes a free-trade zone
- An Open Letter to Sir Charles Court
- John Singleton 1976 ocker Monday Conference Max Harris debate
- Lang Hancock in 1984 solves Australian politics
- Lang Hancock on the Workers Party, secession and States Rights
- Lang Hancock asks what happened to Australia's rugged individualism?
- Precis of Ludwig Plan for North-West
- Announcement that Lang Hancock will be guest of honour at the Workers Party launch
- Lang Hancock's March 1983 attempt to enlist "former presidents of nations and heads of giant companies" to save Australia
- Lang Hancock asks us to think how easily environmentalists are manipulated for political purposes
- Invest in free enterprise
- Democracy is dead in Australia and Lang Hancock's education
- Lang Hancock Incites Civil Disobedience
- Hancock sounds call to battle Canberra
- Mining policy a threat
- Over Whitlam's head
- Lang Hancock suggests that newspapers don't give space to politicians unconditionally
- Lang Hancock on saving Australia from socialism
- Secede or sink
- Australia can learn from Thatcher
- John Singleton. Horseracing. Why?
- How Lang Hancock would fix the economy
- Lang Hancock: victim of retrospective legislation
- Lang Hancock supports Joh for PM
- Hancock seeks miners' tax haven in the north
- The Ord River Dam
- Why Lang Hancock invested in Australia's film industry
- Lang Hancock's 1983 letters to The Australian: Lang's precedent for Steve Jobs, renaming the Lucky Country to the Constipated Country, and more
- Australia's biggest newspaper insider on manipulating the media
- 1980 Lang Hancock-Australian Penthouse Interview
- Canberra: bastion of bureaucracy
- Pilbara can be the Ruhr for South-East Asia
- 1982 Lang Hancock-John Harper Nelson Interview
- Australian elections are one of the greatest con games in history
- Our leaders are powerless