The complicated family life of Australia's richest person, Gina Rinehart, has taken another turn, with her daughter Hope Welker launching legal action against her mother in the Supreme Court of NSW this morning.
According to Supreme Court documents, legal action was commenced by Hope Rinehart Welker against Gina Hope Rinehart before Justice Paul Brereton in Court 2 in the Supreme Court's Hospital Road complex.
The nature of Welker's claim against her mother is unknown at this stage and the parties are currently seeking to restrict third party access to court documents – to be heard before Justice Brereton tomorrow afternoon.
Gina Rinehart, whose mining empire has been valued at more than $10 billion, was contacted through her company Hancock Prospecting but no response was received prior to publication.
Hope, who with her twin sister Gina is the product of the iron ore billionaire's second marriage to American lawyer Frank Rinehart, has played a relatively low-profile role in the Rinehart family business, Hancock Prospecting and has until now shunned the media spotlight.
It is believed that Hope now lives in Sydney with her 25-year-old husband Ryan Welker. Last year, Welker was appointed to the board of Mineral Resources, in which Hancock Prospecting has a stake.
Attempts to contact Welker via Mineral Resources were unsuccessful.
Gina Rinehart has had a fractious relationship with her children in recent years.
Son John changed his surname from Rinehart to Hancock in 2007 after falling out with his mother, although a report in The Australian in late 2010 suggested he had been welcomed back into the family fold.
While Gina Rinehart's eldest daughter Bianca had been groomed by her mother to take a leadership role in Hancock Prospecting, but abruptly moved to Darwin last year with her husband and new baby and is now taking a quieter role in the family company.
Gina Rinehart is of course no stranger to the courts. She waged a legendary 11-year battle for control of the estate of her late father Lang Hancock during the 1990s and in March 2010 lost a nine-year legal stoush with Angela Bennett and Michael Wright, the decedents of Lang Hancock's business partner Peter Wright.
Sources in Perth suggest Michael Wright may be preparing to launch a further legal claim against Gina Rinehart over iron ore royalties.
Rinehart's fortune has exploded in recent years thanks to Australia's surging iron ore market.
Since being named as Australia's first female billionaire in 2006, the royalties Rinehart receives from her iron ore interests in Western Australia's Pilbara region has risen from about $10 million a year to as much as $800 million over the last decade.
That has helped take Rinehart's total fortune to $10.3 billion, according to BRW's valuation in May.
While notoriously media shy, Rinehart has signalled in the last 12 months she is prepared to use her fortune to get across her views on Australia's mining tax, carbon tax and industrial relations system. She has acquired stakes in Ten Network and Fairfax Media and has written several long articles about the need to protect Australia's economy.