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Article

4 Jun 2021

Author:
Jamie Smyth, Financial Times

Rio Tinto appoints first Aboriginal director after sacred cave blasts

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4 June 2021

Rio Tinto has appointed an indigenous Australian to its board for the first time as the mining group grapples with the fallout from the destruction of a 46,000-year-old sacred Aboriginal site last year. The Anglo-Australian company said on Friday that Ben Wyatt, a former Treasurer for the Western Australia state government and a cousin of the country’s Minister for Indigenous Affairs, would bring public policy, regulatory and trade experience when he joined the board on September 1. But his appointment has raised concerns about possible conflicts of interest. [...] Wyatt said on Friday he was deeply saddened and disappointed by Rio’s destruction of the sites but was convinced of the group’s commitment to changing its approach to cultural heritage issues and restoring its reputation. “I have deep respect for the resources sector in Australia and have long been impressed with the professionalism and commitment demonstrated by Rio Tinto,” he said. The appointment of Wyatt is a milestone for indigenous Australians, who are under-represented on public company boards. But it has provoked concerns among some shareholder advocacy groups about potential conflicts of interest. Wyatt stood down as state treasurer in March and joined the board of gas producer Woodside Petroleum earlier this week. [...]

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