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Stan Perron shares his insights from a lifetime in the business.

 

When one thinks of the days of mining past, it conjures up images of young workers with pickaxes prospecting for minerals.

 

There are not many people still around in business that remember those days.

 

Leading businessman Stan Perron recalls them with precision.

At his office in East Perth he spoke to National Mining Chronicle about the early days of business and his involvement with Lang Hancock.

Mr Perron, who left school at age 14, has made his fortune on a range of businesses including iron ore, trucking and earthmoving, motor vehicles, real estate and a number of other projects.

According to the BRW Rich 200 list, in 2015 he was worth $2.65 billion.

Whilst today he works mostly on the plethora of shopping centres he owns around Australia, it was his early days investing in the Pilbara that cemented his place in the state’s history.

Iron ore royalties

Mr Perron still makes royalties off an investment made in the 1950s with none other than Lang Hancock.

Whilst Mr Hancock’s daughter Gina Rinehart has recently completed and started shipping iron ore from her own megaproject, Roy Hill, her family’s involvement in the WA mining industry extends back far beyond her reach.

Mr Perron said when Mr Hancock went to him for money, he was cautious to offer it.

“Up to that stage I’d lost about 100,000 pounds with him on various other ventures,” he said.

“He suggested we put in 1000 pounds each and the next day I said I’d gone cold on the idea, but here’s 500 pounds for a 15 per cent interest.”

That 15 per cent interest secured him millions in royalties from iron ore and tantalite found by Rio Tinto at the Brockman 2 mine near Tom Price.

In 2012 Ms Rinehart was forced to give Perron Group tens of millions of dollars as a result of a trial at the Supreme Court of Western Australia.

The deal, which was struck half a century earlier, came back into play in the courtroom when Perron Group laid claim to 15 per cent of royalties from a number of mines in the Pilbara, including the Mount Tom Price mines and the

Brockman mines, originally pegged by Mr Hancock and his business partner Peter Wright.

It is believed Ms Rinehart’s cut of the royalties from the Rio-operated mines were about $200 million per year at the time of the court case.

“It was purely a letter, there was no documentation like today,” Mr Perron said.

“I had 10 years to make up my mind and when they got the Hamersley contract I said I’ll take that and it’s paid off since.”

‘A dozen men in a shanty town’

Mr Perron has a unique position in the mining industry, given he had no involvement in the recent boom, yet has still found success on the back of the climbing iron ore price of recent years.

“I haven’t been involved in the boom at all but previous to that I had a tantalite mine up in Port Hedland and that’s what I sold to Lang in the first place,” he said.

“It was only an operation of about a dozen men in a shanty town with no air-conditioning or anything like that in those days.”

Mr Perron said the early days of mining in Australia were difficult.

Men working at the mines lived in camps in the towns, with no modern comforts that many miners enjoy today.

“The times have changed,” he said. “It’s only ever since the iron ore [boom].

“Iron ore mining up north is world-standard whereas before there were hundreds of individuals prospectors up north.

“There were lots of little mines that would employ six to a dozen men. It was a different world; that was the way things were 60 years ago.”

Mr Perron recalled the days he went out with his father to live in one of these little towns.

He remembered living in a house with hessian walls and no lighting so his father could earn between three and four pounds a week.

“There are not many around who know of those times and are still active in business,” he said.

This too shall pass

With more than 70 years in business, Mr Perron said he was quite well versed in the cyclical nature of industry.

At 93 he is still active in his own business and has noticed how the current state of the market is affecting people.

He added he was quite confident in the direction that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was taking the country, stating he had instilled confidence amongst business owners.

“Motor cars are a bit quiet at the moment but that’s natural in business – you get the ups and downs,” he said.

“With 70 odd years in business I’ve seen lots of them so it doesn’t upset me.”

Image: The West Australian.