Rio Tinto has elected an Australian native to its board for the first time as a mining team battles the devastation of the destruction of a 46,000-year-old Aboriginal sanctuary last year.
The Anglo-Australian company said on Friday that Ben Wyatt, a former Western Australian Treasurer and cousin of the country’s Minister of Natural Affairs, will bring public policy, logistics and trade after joining the board on September 1. But his election has raised concerns about potential risks.
Rio is trying to restore its international reputation after it blew up the Juukan Gorge quarry in the Western Australian province of Pilbara last year, much to the chagrin of a moneylender going backwards and management and board departure.
Simon Thompson, chairman of Rio Tinto, said the relationship between the Wyatt and Pilbara families could help the council become more prominent as the company seeks to strengthen its relationship with local citizens.
Australia makes about 90% of Rio’s profits, mainly due to the large steel industry in Pilbara.
Wyatt criticized Rio for not associating with the locals when he was the state treasurer and issued a document establishing the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act, which was designed to protect cultural sites in Western Australia.
“Although [Rio] they may think of it as a global company, a Pilbara company with foreign interests, ”he said at the time. “One of the biggest threats to their job is that they don’t seem to have a problem [Pilbara] existence as a company. I do not mean the local leaders and the local team but as a team. ”
Wyatt said Friday he was very upset and upset with Rio’s environmental degradation but he was confident that the group was committed to changing its ways of dealing with cultural issues and restoring their reputation.
“I have a lot of respect for the Australian financial sector and I am impressed by the expertise and dedication of Rio Tinto,” he said.
The establishment of Wyatt is an important factor for Australian citizens, who are not represented in public corporations. But it has raised concerns among other stock exchanges over potential disputes. Wyatt sat down as state treasurer in March and joined the Woodside Petroleum oil company earlier this week.
“Mr Wyatt’s skills and experience make him attractive at all costs,” said Brynn O’Brien, executive director at the Australasian Center for Corporate Responsibility.
“However, since Woodside and Rio Tinto are facing serious challenges to conform to their Western Australian expectations and ESG standards, it is worthwhile to be concerned about their politics.”
“In view of this, the appointment of Australia’s most recently retired prime minister who has been in charge of key offices should surprise people with a roundabout door between government and industry,” O’Brien added.
The nomination comes as cultural groups want to promote Wyatt’s reform of the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act.
The Kimberley Land Council, which represents the Aborigines, said last week the law was “very wrong” and warned the federal government not to listen to mining groups.