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Ranked: The Top 20 Metals and Mining Billionaires

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The Top 20 Mining Billionaires Ranked

Mining Magnates: The Top 20 Billionaires in Mining

Metals and mining can be a very profitable business for the individuals at the top, but success can also come and go based on volatile commodity prices. The average time to make a billion dollars in the sector is 16 years, compared to 21 years across all industries.

Although tech and bank CEOs get all the limelight, eight of the 100 richest people in the world are in the metals and mining industry. Today’s graphic shows the top 20 metals and mining billionaires, based on the Forbes Billionaires List.

Steel producers dominate the list, followed by copper miners.

Name Net WorthCountryCompanyOperations
Alexey Mordashov$29.1BRussia 🇷🇺Severstalsteel
Vladimir Potanin$27.0BRussia 🇷🇺Norilsk Nickelpalladium, platinum, nickel
Vladimir Lisin$26.2BRussia 🇷🇺NLMK Groupsteel
Germán Larrea Mota-Velasco$25.9BMexico 🇲🇽Grupo Méxicocopper
Gina Rinehart$23.6BAustralia 🇦🇺Hancock Prospectingiron ore
Iris Fontbona$23.3BChile 🇨🇱Antofagasta Plccopper
Andrew Forrest$20.4BAustralia 🇦🇺Fortescue Metals Groupiron ore
Alisher Usmanov$18.4BRussia 🇷🇺Metalloinvestiron ore/steel
Lakshmi Mittal$14.9BIndia 🇮🇳ArcelorMittalsteel
Wang Wenyin$13.2BChina 🇨🇳 Amer International Groupcopper
Dang Yanbao$12.7BChina 🇨🇳Ningxia Baofeng Energy Groupcoal
Savitri Jindal$9.7BIndia 🇮🇳Jindal Groupsteel/cement
Iskander Makhmudov$9.7BRussia 🇷🇺UGMKcopper
Alberto Baillères$9.2BMexico 🇲🇽Industrias Penolessilver
Andrei Skoch$8.6BRussia 🇷🇺 State Dumasteel
Zheng Shuliang$8.6BChina 🇨🇳 China Hongqiao Groupaluminum
Nicky Oppenheimer$8.0BSouth Africa 🇿🇦De Beersdiamond
Alexander Abramov$7.6BRussia 🇷🇺Evrazsteel
Rinat Akhmetov$7.6BUkraine 🇺🇦System Capital Managementsteel, coal
Igor Altushkin$7.6BRussia 🇷🇺Russian Copper Company (RMK)copper

Despite being major players in the mining industry, the United States and Canada don’t have representatives on the list.

Russia’s Mining Billionaires

Russia’s huge geographic area is filled with rich mineral resources providing a fertile ground for mining billionaires. It is the largest miner of diamonds and palladium, and the second-largest miner of platinum and nickel. It is no wonder this country hosts eight of the 20 richest people in the industry, including the first few on the list.

Alexey Mordashov, son of steel mill workers that had to use welfare coupons to raise the family, is the first on the list. The 55-year-old businessman is the majority shareholder in steel company Severstal. In the Forbes ranking, which takes into account the assets of the whole family, Mordashov ranks first among all Russian billionaires.

Next on the metals billionaire list is Vladimir Potanin, individually the wealthiest man in Russia and the owner of Norilsk Nickel, the world’s largest producer of palladium and nickel.

Women at the Top

The first woman on the mining billionaires list in the fifth spot, is Australia’s Gina Rinehart, Executive Chairman of Hancock Prospecting. The 67-year-old executive is the only child of legendary explorer Lang Hancock, who discovered the world’s largest iron ore deposit in 1952.

Hancock died in 1992, leaving a bankrupt estate to Gina. She rebuilt and expanded the company over the following decade. As a result, she became a billionaire in 2006 during the iron ore boom.

“If you’re jealous of those with more money, don’t just sit there and complain; do something to make more money yourself”

— Gina Rinehart

The list also includes the wealthiest person in Chile, Iris Fontbona. Iris is the widow of Andrónico Luksic, who built a fortune in the mining, financial, and beverages sectors, including the top copper miner Antofagasta.

A New Era for Mining Fortunes

As demand for most minerals increases due to new technologies and the energy transition, the world needs metals and mining more than ever and soon there will be a new list of billionaires who built their fortune on the minerals of tomorrow.

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Misc

Visualizing the Abundance of Elements in the Earth’s Crust

The Earth’s crust makes up 1% of the planet’s volume, but provides all the material we use. What elements make up this thin layer we stand on?

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The Earth's Crust

Visualizing the Abundance of Elements in the Earth’s Crust

Elements in the Earth’s crust provide all the basic building blocks for mankind.

But even though the crust is the source of everything we find, mine, refine, and build, it really is just scratching the surface of our planet.

After all, the innermost layer of the Earth, the core, represents 15% of the planet’s volume, whereas the mantle occupies 84%. Representing the remaining 1% is the crust, a thin layer that ranges in depth from approximately 5-70 km (~3-44 miles).

This infographic takes a look at what elements make up this 1%, based on data from WorldAtlas.

Earth’s Crust Elements

The crust is a rigid surface containing both the oceans and landmasses. Most elements are found in only trace amounts within the Earth’s crust, but several are abundant.

The Earth’s crust comprises about 95% igneous and metamorphic rocks, 4% shale, 0.75% sandstone, and 0.25% limestone.

Oxygen, silicon, aluminum, and iron account for 88.1% of the mass of the Earth’s crust, while another 90 elements make up the remaining 11.9%.

RankElement% of Earth's Crust
1Oxygen (O)46.1%
2Silicon (Si)28.2%
3Aluminum (Al)8.2%
4Iron (Fe)5.6%
5Calcium (Ca)4.1%
6Sodium (Na)2.3%
7Magnesium (Mg)2.3%
8Potassium (K)2.0%
9Titanium (Ti)0.5%
10Hydrogen (H)0.1%
Other elements0.5%
Total100.0%

While gold, silver, copper and other base and precious metals are among the most sought after elements, together they make up less than 0.03% of the Earth’s crust by mass.

#1: Oxygen

Oxygen is by far the most abundant element in the Earth’s crust, making up 46% of mass—coming up just short of half of the total.

Oxygen is a highly reactive element that combines with other elements, forming oxides. Some examples of common oxides are minerals such as granite and quartz (oxides of silicon), rust (oxides of iron), and limestone (oxide of calcium and carbon).

#2: Silicon

More than 90% of the Earth’s crust is composed of silicate minerals, making silicon the second most abundant element in the Earth’s crust.

Silicon links up with oxygen to form the most common minerals on Earth. For example, in most places, sand primarily consists of silica (silicon dioxide) usually in the form of quartz. Silicon is an essential semiconductor, used in manufacturing electronics and computer chips.

#3: Aluminum

Aluminum is the third most common element in the Earth’s crust.

Because of its strong affinity for oxygen, aluminum is rarely found in its elemental state. Aluminum oxide (Al2O3), aluminum hydroxide (Al(OH)3) and potassium aluminum sulphate (KAl(SO4)2) are common aluminum compounds.

Aluminum and aluminum alloys have a variety of uses, from kitchen foil to rocket manufacturing.

#4: Iron

The fourth most common element in the Earth’s crust is iron, accounting for over 5% of the mass of the Earth’s crust.

Iron is obtained chiefly from the minerals hematite and magnetite. Of all the metals we mine, over 90% is iron, mainly to make steel, an alloy of carbon and iron. Iron is also an essential nutrient in the human body.

#5: Calcium

Calcium makes up about 4.2% of the planet’s crust by weight.

In its pure elemental state, calcium is a soft, silvery-white alkaline earth metal. It is never found in its isolated state in nature but exists instead in compounds. Calcium compounds can be found in a variety of minerals, including limestone (calcium carbonate), gypsum (calcium sulphate) and fluorite (calcium fluoride).

Calcium compounds are widely used in the food and pharmaceutical industries for supplementation. They are also used as bleaches in the paper industry, as components in cement and electrical insulators, and in manufacturing soaps.

Digging the Earth’s Crust

Despite Jules Verne’s novel, no one has ever journeyed to the center of Earth.

In fact, the deepest hole ever dug by humanity reaches approximately 12 km (7.5 miles) below the Earth’s surface, about one-third of the way to the Earth’s mantle. This incredible depth took about 20 years to reach.

Although mankind is constantly making new discoveries and reaching for the stars, there is still a lot to explore about the Earth we stand on.

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Misc

How Royalty Companies Manage Risk for Superior Returns

Royalty companies can flexibly manage risk more easily compared to mining companies, while still offering precious metals exposure.

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royalty company risk

Balancing Risk for Royalty Companies vs. Mining Companies

Risk is at the forefront of every company’s decision-making, especially for mining companies that operate large-scale mines in various jurisdictions.

While producing precious metals naturally carries a variety of risks, there is another way to get exposure to precious metals production with much lower risk: royalty companies.

Royalty companies provide up-front capital to miners in exchange for royalties on future mine production, providing a steady stream of revenue and precious metal exposure with far less risk attached to the company.

This graphic sponsored by Nomad Royalty looks at the risks royalty companies and mining companies face, and how royalty companies are able to mitigate and diversify with more flexibility to deliver stronger returns.

Trimming from the Top Line

By providing capital in exchange for a royalty or stream on a mine, royalty companies are an essential part of mine funding across the world. Along with competitively priced capital for mine developers, the lifetime royalties or streams received in return ensure royalty companies are invested in a mine’s lifelong success.

Mining royalty: A recurring percentage (typically between 0.5% to 3%) of revenue generated from a mine’s ore and mineral sales, paid out to the royalty holder.

Mining stream: An agreement for a recurring purchase of a percentage of a mine’s produced metals, at a previously agreed upon price (typically lower than the metal’s current market value). Typically mines will offer streams on metal by-products of the mine.

Royalties and streams are known as non-participating interests, meaning that the holders (royalty companies) have no obligation or expectation to further fund or assist with the mine’s production.

Along with this, royalties are from a mine’s top line revenue, meaning that the percentage given to royalty holders is calculated before operational expenses, sales costs, and other expenses are deducted. The difference between top line revenue and profit after expenses can be massive, changing the value of a royalty by millions of dollars.

YearVeladero Mine RevenueProfit after AISC Deducted2.5% Royalty of Revenue2.5% Royalty of Profit
2015$720M$106M$18M$3.7M
2016$685M$252M$17M$6.3M
2017$788M$219M$20M$5.5M
2018$732M$90M$18M$2.3M
2019$772M$166M$19M$4.2M
2020$666M$62M$17M$1.5M

Source: Mining Data Online

Both of these factors have a massive impact on the value of a royalty, as they ensure steady revenue shielded from the mine’s operational costs while requiring no maintenance or upkeep from the holder.

Sleeker Business, Lower Expenses

The nature of royalty companies naturally enables them to be lightweight businesses with incredibly low expenses. Compared to the many employees with varying skills needed to manage orebody exploration, project construction, and daily mine operations, royalty companies only require a tight team of specialized individuals.

While the top three gold mining companies (Newmont Goldcorp, Barrick Gold, and Newcrest Mining) have an average of around 15,500 employees each, the top three precious metals royalty companies (Franco-Nevada, Wheaton Precious Metals, and Royal Gold) each have less than 50 employees.

With minimal G&A expenses and no exposure to fluctuating operational costs, royalty companies skirt large amounts of operational risk compared to mining companies. Setting up a royalty agreement carries far less risk and takes much less time compared to developing a mine, meaning royalty companies can be much more nimble and lock down future revenue more easily.

This protection from operational risk allows for steadier revenue to ride out the bumpy market cycles commodities can have, and royalty companies typically have dividend policies to reflect this operational and financial stability.

More Freedom to Diversify Risk

The lightweight nature of royalty companies allows them more freedom and flexibility to diversify a variety of risks. By spreading out their capital properly, many of the risks mining companies struggle to avoid can be easily sidestepped by a royalty company.

While many mining companies tend to cluster their operations in single regions based on the assets they own or can purchase, royalty companies can more freely decide on which jurisdictions to set up royalty agreements. This also includes the perk of spreading out counterparty risk, as royalty companies can choose to work with a diverse selection of mine operators.

Along with diversifying royalties across jurisdictions and counterparties, royalty companies can carefully tune their portfolio’s exposure to specific commodities, unlike mining companies who cannot change what they find underground.

Royal Rewards for Reduced Risk

If having reduced exposure to this variety of risks wasn’t enough, royalty companies reap a variety of benefits compared to mine operators. Since royalty and stream agreements often last for the life of a mine, royalty holders receive the benefits of resource extension and mine expansion at no additional cost.

They also benefit from increases in precious metals prices, as increases in a mine’s revenue is reflected for royalty and stream holders as well. In times of metals price downturns, royalty companies are protected by their high margins and can use their cash reserves and credit to invest in royalties at a discount.

With far more freedom and flexibility in diversifying their risk, precious metals companies like Nomad Royalty provide investors exposure to gold and silver while protecting them from the many risks that plague the mining industry.

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