Rio Tinto has appointed a Native Australian to its board for the first time as the mining team battles the destruction of 46,000-year-old aboriginal sites last year.
The Anglo-Australian Company announced on Friday that Ben Wyatt, the cousin of the former treasurer of the Government of the State of Western Australia, the Minister of Indigenous Affairs, will bring public policy and regulatory experience when he joins the Board on September 1. But his appointment has raised concerns about a possible conflict of interest.
Rio is trying to restore its international reputation after blowing up the rock paintings of Juukan Gorge in the Pilbara region of Western Australia last year, provoking the investor. counteraction և Management և Board departures.
Rio Tinto President Simon Thompson said White’s family ties to Pilbara would significantly increase the council’s knowledge as the company seeks to strengthen its relationship with Indigenous peoples.
Australia receives almost 90% of Rio’s profits, largely due to its large iron ore business in Pilbara.
Wyatt accused Rio of losing touch with Indigenous communities when he was state treasurer, and issued a bill to modernize the Indigenous Cultural Heritage Act to protect Indigenous heritage sites in Western Australia.
“Meanwhile [Rio] “They may think they are a global company, they are a Pilbara company with foreign interests,” he said at the time. “One of the biggest risks of their activities is that they do not seem to be significant [Pilbara] presence as a company. I do not mean the local leaders, the local team, but as a board. ”
Wyatt Wyatt said he was deeply saddened by Rio destruction of sites but was convinced that the group was committed to changing its approach to cultural heritage issues and restoring its reputation.
“I have great respect for Australia’s resource sector, I have long been impressed by the professionalism and dedication shown by Rio Tinto,” he said.
Wyatt’s appointment is a significant event for Indigenous Australians, who are underrepresented on public company boards. But it has raised concerns among some shareholder advocacy groups about a possible conflict of interest. Wyatt resigned as treasurer in March and joined the board of gas producer Woodside Petroleum earlier this week.
“Mr. Wyatt’s experience և experience makes him a very attractive candidate for both councils,” said Brin O’Brien, executive director of the Australian Center for Corporate Responsibility.
“However, given that Woodside’s Rio Tinto faces enormous challenges in bringing their Western Australian actions in line with community expectations, ECG standards, it is fair to be concerned about their political impact.”
“In that sense, the recent appointment of a retired Western Australian Government Minister responsible for key portfolios should raise an eyebrow at the government-to-industry revolving door,” O’Brien added.
The appointment comes as indigenous groups are lobbying to strengthen Wyatt’s proposed Indigenous Heritage Act.
The Kimberley Land Council, which represents the Aboriginal people, said last week that the bill was “seriously flawed” and warned the state government not to bow to the interests of mining groups.