Iron ore baron Andrew Forrest likes doing things his own way.
But even by his own maverick standards, Forrest's latest idea to help miners withstand the plunging iron ore price is a radical one. It's also a sign of his desperation to shore up the future of his mining company Fortescue Metals Group.
A lot of Australians made fortunes from the unprecedented mining boom over recent years, and few made more than the billions "Twiggy" Forrest accumulated. But with the boom well and truly a thing of the past, few have more to lose as well.
Forrest, chairman and founder of iron ore miner Fortescue, suggested last week that it and other miners band together and limit the amount of ore they mine. The idea was to reduce supply and drive prices up, in the same way Middle East nations have done in the past with oil.
"I'm happy to put that challenge out there. Let's cap our production right here and start acting like grownups," Forrest said.
You could almost hear the jaws drop at the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, whose job it is to ensure that markets operate transparently and fairly. Usually the ACCC has to spend years in surveillance and phone tapping to prove big businesses are colluding, yet here was the leader of a multibillion dollar business openly suggesting what sounds like a cartel. Once the economists and lawyers at the ACCC picked themselves up off the floor, they launched an immediate investigation into Forrest's comments.
That a senior business figure might have floated an idea so obviously in breach of competition law is on the one hand surprising.
But that Forrest would do it is less so. Anyone who has built the world's fourth largest iron ore producer from scratch is always going to be someone who does things their own way.
Forrest grew up on his family's sprawling cattle farm in Western Australia's Pilbara region, whose red-brown dirt would earn him billions when he began shipping it to China decades later.
He started his work life as a stockbroker in Perth, the Wild West of Australian capitalism, where wheeler-dealers spruik speculative mining stocks along St Georges Terrace, the centre of the city's resources industry.
Forrest started a nickel mining company nearly three decades ago and founded Fortescue Metals in 2003 after being forced out by his business partners.
Within five years Fortescue had built railways, ports and mines in the Pilbara and had begun shipping millions of tonnes of iron ore to satisfy the seemingly insatiable Chinese demand for steel.
The mining magnate quickly became Australia's richest man with a fortune of A$9.4 billion, but his wealth has sunk in line with the iron ore price. By January this year he was worth a mere A$2.5 billion ($2.56 billion) as the value of his Fortescue Mining shares plunged. That's probably enough for Forrest to get by on, but Fortescue isn't so fortunate.
Iron ore prices are languishing at a six-year low with no sign of improvement. Fortescue is in a much weaker position to withstand further falls than rivals BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Brazil's Vale, all of which have much lower production costs.
Worse still, Fortescue is struggling to refinance its debt. Earlier this month it pulled a US$2.5 billion bond issue from the market, which it had hoped would buy some breathing space for its US$7.5 billion debt burden.
All of which explains why Forrest is casting around for solutions, even such silly ones. But it will never be a goer. Putting aside the possible illegality of the idea - and one commentator has suggested it could breach competition and anti-trust laws in 120 different countries - it's not in other miners' interests.
Forrest can be at times abrasive and at times persuasive but he's got no chance of persuading fellow miners to join in his latest scheme.
Even at the current low prices, Rio and BHP are still making good profits on their ore exports and they argue that if they don't continue to produce then competitors will fill the gap and higher prices will draw new projects into the market.
"I don't know what Andrew was thinking," said Rio Tinto boss Sam Walsh, who labelled the idea a "harebrained scheme".
Forrest is also a passionate campaigner for social justice issues including an end to slavery around the world and increasing Aboriginal employment at home. He and his wife have also pledged to donate half of their wealth to charity.
He witnessed firsthand the downfall of the previous generation of Perth entrepreneurs such as Alan Bond and Laurie Connell when the 80s property boom ended. He'll do everything he can to ensure he doesn't go down like they did.
But he won't save Fortescue Metals with a cartel.
Christopher Niesche is a former editor of the Business Herald.