RICH PICKINGS: Rock bottom

12 months ago Australia's mining entrepreneurs were at the very top of the pile thanks to favourable trading conditions and a global thirst for our raw commodities. Today the landscape couldn't be more different.

For the non believer, this weeks news flow proved beyond any skerrick of a doubt that the mining boom is officially over. China’s economy has slowed sharply, miners such as BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto are slashing jobs and shelving projects and commodity prices appear set for further falls as the global economy grinds to halt.

It also appears that party is over for those mining entrepreneurs who soared up the ranks of Australia’s most wealthy over the last few years.

While some smart miners such as Kerry Harmanis (Jubilee Mines) and Ken Talbot (Macarthur Coal) and Nathan Tinkler (Macarthur Coal) managed to sell up at the top of the cycle, most held on to stakes in companies that they had nurtured for decades. As a result, their fortunes have taken a hammering.

Here are some our hardest hit miners:

Andrew Forrest

We’ve followed Twiggy’s fortunes very closely in this column, but it’s always fun to update the rollercoaster that is his wealth. Forrest’s stake in Fortescue is currently worth around $1.7 billion, down from $12.9 billion in the middle of last year.

John Grill

It wasn’t just miners who got rich off the boom – service providers such as engineers, contractors, recruiters and accommodation providers also filled up their wallets. The chief executive of engineering firm Worley Parsons, John Grill, had a stake in the company worth $1.7 billion when the company’s shares peaked at the start of last year. But the fall in resource company share prices has also hit Worley Parsons. After peaking at $54.19 the shares are now trading just below $15 and Grill’s stake is worth just under $480 million.

Tony Poli

The executive chairman of coal company Aquila Resources, Tony Poli, enjoyed a spectacular increase in wealth as his company’s shares hurtled from around $7 at the start of 2008 to $16.50 in the middle of last year. At that point, Poli’s stake in Aquila was worth $1.2 billion. But the slump in coal prices has sent Aquila’s share price skidding to around $2.70, valuing Poli’s stake at just over $200 million. Ouch.

Zimi Meka and Bob Thorpe

Zimi Meka and Bob Thorpe, directors of mining services firm Ausenco, stormed onto BRW’s Rich 200 in 2008 with a fortune of $444 million as shares in their company rose from a listing prices of $1.55 in mid-2006 to almost $16 in May 2008. But since then the shares have crashed to around $2.20, and Thope and Meka’s combined stake has fallen by $355 million to around $57 million.

Peter Bond

The chief executive of Linc Energy, Peter Bond, is a serial mining entrepreneur who has been involved in the coal and gold sector, but it was when he turned Linc into a gas-to-liquid fuel company that he really struck it rich. Linc’s share price climbed from 28c in March 2007 to just over $5 in October last year, valuing Bond’s stake in the company at just over $1 billion. But as the oil price has plunged, so has Bond’s wealth. With Linc shares now at around $1.35, his stake is worth around $280 million.

Kevin Maloney

Kevin Maloney’s company, The MAC Services Group, was one of the companies that provided accommodation for the mining industry. In the middle of last year, the company’s shares were hovering around $2.95; today they are stuck at about 80c. As a result, the Maloney family’s stake in the company has fallen from $255 million to around $69 million.

Terry Streeter

Terry Streeter, a self-described "10 pound pom", owns around 20 per cent of nickel miner Western Areas. When the company’s share surged above $11 in the middle of last year, Streeter was sitting on a paper fortune of around $310 million. But a sharp fall in the price of nickel – $US5 a pound compared with a peak of $US22 a pound in 2007 – has seen the company’s shares fall to around $3.60. That puts the value of Streeter’s stake at around $110 million.

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