© Bradley Kanaris/Getty ImagesMining magnate and business women Gina Rinehart.
The race for control of junior miner Atlas Iron could be about to ratchet up substantially, with Gina Rinehart reportedly buying a 19.6 per cent stake in the miner via Hancock Prospecting.
The move, reported by media outlets late on Tuesday, would mean that two of Australia's richest and most influential business people, Ms Rinehart and Andrew "Twiggy" Forrest from Fortescue Metals Group, have both taken stakes in the small iron ore miner with operations in the North Pilbara.
News of Ms Rinehart's move emerged late on Tuesday and comes after Fortescue shocked the mining industry last week when it revealed it had acquired a 19.9 per cent stake in Atlas.
Fortescue did not reveal why it wanted a 19.9 per cent stake in Atlas, a step which effectively blocks a merger between the Western Australia-based Mineral Resources and Atlas Iron that had appeared to be on track.
Fortescue told the market last week that it "does not intend to support the proposed Scheme of Arrangement between Atlas Iron and Mineral Resources on its current terms, but reserves the right to do so".
© SuppliedGina Rinehart
Fairfax Media has approached Hancock Prospecting for comment. Mineral Resources declined to comment on Tuesday night.
Shares in Atlas Iron enjoyed another healthy rise on Tuesday, by 5 per cent, to 4.2 cents. The ASX was closed on Monday.
The corporate activity surrounding Atlas led to a spike in the company's share price on Friday, before the long weekend, with the company's stock jumping 42.9 per cent (1.2 cents) to 4 cents.
Shares in Fortescue eased four cents on Tuesday, to close at $4.64.
The Fortescue move prompted a range of theories on what was behind the major iron ore player's move on Atlas Iron.
One view, espoused in a note from Patersons, was that the assets of Atlas in the Pilbara could "hold strategic value for FMG providing additional iron ore assets, port capacity and the chance to diversify into lithium".
UBS analyst Glyn Lawcock meanwhile, wrote that "FMG wants a say in the development of its own backyard - the Pilbara". Mr Lawcock said FMG's interest could be driven by a joint venture that Atlas is involved in, to develop a new port facility at Port Hedland able to handle 50 million tonnes of exports per year.