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Thursday, 24 January, 2002, 14:23 GMT
'Lucky' tycoon hits paydirt
Small uncut Australian rubies
Cluff had expected granite, but found rubies
As far as most Australians are concerned, Kerry Packer, their country's richest man, has an almost supernatural ability to make money.

Mr Packer made his fortune, estimated at 8.2bn Australian dollars (3bn; $4.2bn), mainly in media, enacting a series of breathtakingly daring deals via his PBL holding.

Now, to the exasperation of the Australian media, a mining firm has discovered a rich seam of rubies on Mr Packer's Hunter Valley estate, 90 miles to the north of Sydney.

The firm, Cluff Resources Pacific, has been prospecting the Hunter Valley - part of its Gloucester Ruby Project - since 1999.

It claimed the find was "accidental", since it was in an area thought to contain only worthless granite.

Cashing in

Being the shrewd businessman he is, Mr Packer stands to benefit from the find.

Kerry Packer
Mr Packer: Blessed with money luck

According to New South Wales law, the rights to all minerals are vested in the state, not in the owner of the land.

But, thanks to a legal oversight, rubies were not included in the ruling, and Mr Packer has been able to negotiate a stake in the venture.

In 1999, he signed a deal with Cluff to earn a 10% royalty on all rubies mined, as well as buying an option to pay 5m Australian dollars for a 51% stake in the project.

Carats for peanuts

That modest investment looks likely to pay off handsomely.

Even before the latest find, the Gloucester project was estimated to yield a likely 4.6 million carats of rubies.

Ruby prices vary so sharply, depending on quality and size of gems, that it is impossible to assess the total value of the project's likely yield, but experts reckon the investment should be returned many times over.

Cluff now plans to launch a marketing programme, to establish whether the Hunter Valley gems will be worth further mining.

See also:

23 Aug 01 | Business
Diamond market loses sparkle
21 Aug 01 | UK
Americans in hunt for gems
10 Oct 00 | Asia-Pacific
Ruby rumours spark gem rush
01 Sep 00 | Asia-Pacific
Kerry Packer: Wizard of Oz
31 Aug 00 | Asia-Pacific
Packer 'loses $20m' at cards
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