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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 Rise in Commodity Prices

Commodity prices have been on the uptrend since 2020. This chart shows 10 commodities with significant price increases over the last year.

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commodity prices

The Stuff that Makes Everything

If you ever wonder why commodities are important, just think of an object around you and ask yourself—what’s that made of?

From the wires in our electronic devices to the tables in our offices, these raw materials are everywhere. Of late, commodity prices have been surging as the global economy recovers, with rising demand from various industries including infrastructure, construction, and livestock.

The above infographic tracks the futures prices of 10 commodities that have seen significant price increases since January 2020.

Commodity Prices, from Bust to Boom

From lumber for home construction to metals for electronics, commodities across the three categories—agriculture, metals, and energy—have been rallying since hitting pandemic lows around March 2020.

CommodityClosing Price (Jan 1, 2020)Closing Price (May 7, 2020)% Increase
Lumber$406.7 per 1,000 board ft$1,645 per 1,000 board ft304%
Iron Ore$92.6 per tonne$197.7 per tonne114%
Soybean Oil$0.35 per lb$0.65 per lb85%
Corn$3.9 per bushel$7.3 per bushel85%
Tin$17,170 per tonne$30,950 per tonne80%
Soybeans$9.6 per bushel$15.9 per bushel66%
Copper$2.8 per lb$4.6 per lb65%
Lean Hogs$0.71 per lb$1.1 per lb56%
Palladium$1,928 per oz$2,961.5 per oz54%
Silver$18 per oz$27.6 per oz53%

Percentage increases may differ slightly due to rounding.

Among agricultural commodities, the price of lumber futures increased 304% between January 2020 and May 2021, reaching record highs. Food prices have also seen a sharp increase since the halfway point of last year. As of May 7th, the price of corn futures was at $7.3 per bushel, nearing its all-time highs of $8.3 per bushel in 2012. Furthermore, soybean oil prices were also at their highest level in the last decade.

Among metals, iron ore futures climbed 114%, reaching a record high. Tin and copper were also both moving towards all-time high prices as of May 7th, followed by palladium and silver, both of which saw more than a 50% rise in prices since January 2020.

Several commodities are either nearing or have broken past their all-time highs. Why are commodity prices increasing?

Lumber

Lumber—the form of wood that builders use to build and renovate homes—has been the talk of the town due to the massive increase in its price.

This is in stark contrast to 2019 when lumber prices were so low that some sawmill owners were better off ceasing operations. In addition to sawmill shutdowns, outbreaks of a bark-eating species of beetle have destroyed 15 years worth of log supplies in British Columbia, Canada, limiting the supply of lumber.

Meanwhile, home buyers are taking advantage of the low costs of borrowing due to record-low mortgage rates in the U.S. This is driving up the demand for lumber from the housing market, while supply is in a bottleneck.

Corn and Soybeans

Corn and soybeans are common feed grains for livestock, including swine, beef, and poultry.

China—the largest producer and consumer of pork—has been battling outbreaks of African swine fever (ASF) since 2018, losing over 100 million pigs. As the country’s hog-herd recovers from this disease, Chinese demand for corn and soybeans is increasing and supporting higher prices. In fact, China’s corn imports from the U.S. increased 2,072% between 2019 and 2020.

Iron Ore and Tin

The global economic recovery, led by China, is fueling the demand for steel, and in turn, for iron ore. On the supply side, the industry is facing a shortage, with a decline in output from top producer Vale following a disaster at its tailings dam in Brazil.

Tin prices are soaring due to rising demand from consumer electronics amid tightening supply. According to Roskill, pandemic-induced supply disruptions led to a 10% decline in refined tin output in 2020. Additionally, shipping disruptions and low stocks at the London Metal Exchange (LME) are intensifying tin’s supply squeeze.

Copper

Copper’s story is similar to that of iron ore, wherein rebounding economies are boosting demand for the red metal. However, investors are particularly bullish on copper due to its critical role in green technologies, with looming concerns over its long-term supply.

Palladium

Many countries are imposing stricter auto emission standards—and while this may surprise you, it’s driving the demand for palladium. The precious metal is a key ingredient in catalytic converters that turn toxic emissions from gas-powered vehicles into less harmful gases.

Unlike the rollercoaster rides that are commodity prices, palladium prices have been rising for five years straight. What’s more, the palladium market has seen an annual deficit since 2012. And this trend is likely to continue with flooding at palladium mines in Russia expected to cut global supply by 5% in 2021.

The Start of a Commodity Supercycle?

While it’s difficult to predict the sustainability of these high prices, the increase in commodity prices across the board has investors gearing up for a potential commodity supercycle.

Commodity supercycles are decade-long periods during which commodity prices trend above their long-term averages. The last supercycle lasted from 1996 to around 2016, driven by rapid industrialization in Brazil, India, Russia, and China (BRIC economies). Today, governments around the world are adopting mineral-intensive clean energy technologies, which will likely increase the demand for minerals for years to come.

Are we on the brink of a new commodity supercycle?

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All the World’s Metals and Minerals in One Visualization

This massive infographic reveals the dramatic scale of 2019 non-fuel mineral global production.

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All the World’s Metals and Minerals in One Visualization

We live in a material world, in that we rely on materials to make our lives better. Without even realizing it, humans consume enormous amounts of metals and minerals with every convenient food package, impressive building, and technological innovation.

Every year, the United States Geological Service (USGS) publishes commodity summaries outlining global mining statistics for over 90 individual minerals and materials. Today’s infographic visualizes the data to reveal the dramatic scale of 2019 non-fuel mineral production.

Read all the way to the bottom; the data will surprise you.

Non-Fuel Minerals: USGS Methodology

A wide variety of minerals can be classified as “non-fuel”, including precious metals, base metals, industrial minerals, and materials used for construction.

Non-fuel minerals are those not used for fuel, such as oil, natural gas and coal. Once non-fuel minerals are used up, there is no replacing them. However, many can be recycled continuously.

The USGS tracked both refinery and mine production of these various minerals. This means that some minerals are the essential ingredients for others on the list. For example, iron ore is critical for steel production, and bauxite ore gets refined into aluminum.

Top 10 Minerals and Metals by Production

Sand and gravel are at the top of the list of non-fuel mineral production.

As these materials are the basic components for the manufacturing of concrete, roads, and buildings, it’s not surprising they take the lead.

RankMetal/Mineral2019 Production (millions of metric tons)
#1Sand and Gravel50,000
#2Cement4,100
#3Iron and Steel3,200
#4Iron Ore2,500
#5Bauxite500
#6Lime430
#7Salt293
#8Phosphate Rock240
#9Nitrogen150
#10Gypsum140

These materials fertilize the food we eat, and they also form the structures we live in and the roads we drive on. They are the bones of the global economy.

Let’s dive into some more specific categories covered on the infographic.

Base Metals

While cement, sand, and gravel may be the bones of global infrastructure, base metals are its lifeblood. Their consumption is an important indicator of the overall health of an economy.

Base metals are non-ferrous, meaning they contain no iron. They are often more abundant in nature and sometimes easier to mine, so their prices are generally lower than precious metals.

RankBase Metal2019 Production (millions of metric tons)
#1Aluminum64.0
#2Copper20.0
#3Zinc13.0
#4Lead4.5
#5Nickel2.7
#6Tin0.3

Base metals are also the critical materials that will help to deliver a green and renewable future. The electrification of everything will require vast amounts of base metals to make everything from batteries to solar cells work.

Precious Metals

Gold and precious metals grab the headlines because of their rarity ⁠— and their production shows just how rare they are.

RankPrecious Metal2019 Production (metric tons)
#1Silver27,000
#2Gold3,300
#3Palladium210
#4Platinum180

While metals form the structure and veins of the global economy, ultimately it is humans and animals that make the flesh of the world, driving consumption patterns.

A Material World: A Perspective on Scale

The global economy’s appetite for materials has quadrupled since 1970, faster than the population, which only doubled. On average, each human uses more than 13 metric tons of materials per year.

In 2017, it’s estimated that humans consumed 100.6B metric tons of material in total. Half of the total comprises sand, clay, gravel, and cement used for building, along with the other minerals mined to produce fertilizer. Coal, oil, and gas make up 15% of the total, while metal makes up 10%. The final quarter are plants and trees used for food and fuel.

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