The former WA Aboriginal affairs minister Ben Wyatt has been appointed to Rio Tinto’s board as a non-executive director as the mining giant moves to recover from the fallout over the Juukan Gorge disaster.
As minister, Ben Wyatt slammed the company after it blasted the 46,000-year-old sacred rock shelters in Western Australia’s Pilbara region in May last year.
At the time, Mr Wyatt said Rio Tinto was “fearful” of engaging with communities in the region and suggested the company had little understanding of the necessary relationships it needed to forge with locals.
In a statement released by Rio Tinto on Friday, Mr Wyatt said he was confident the company was taking steps in the right direction.
“I was deeply saddened and disappointed by the events at Juukan Gorge but I am convinced that Rio Tinto is committed to changing its approach to cultural heritage issues and restoring its reputation, particularly in Australia and Western Australia,” he said.
“I am looking forward to working with the board in building on the momentum for change generated by the new leadership team.”
Rio Tinto said Mr Wyatt would join the board on September 1.
The company’s investors gave the miner a slap in the face at its annual general meeting in Perth in May, voting against big bonuses for top executives to protest the destruction of the caves.
It was the big miner’s first shareholder meeting in Australia since the rock shelters were blasted a year ago.
Mr Wyatt quit politics at the 2021 WA election after postponing his retirement as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Separately, the former minister and treasurer this week joined the Woodside Petroleum board as a non-executive director.