What’s with the Rio Tinto (ASX:RIO) share price today?

After condemning Rio Tinto for destroying the Juukan Gorge last year, Ben Wyatt is to join its board

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Rio Tinto Limited (ASX: RIO) announced the appointment of Western Australia’s former Aboriginal affairs minister, Ben Wyatt, to its board today.

At the time of writing, the Rio Tinto share price is trading at $124.16, 2.24% lower than yesterday’s close.

Let’s take a look at Rio Tinto’s appointment of Wyatt and his past interactions with the company.

A shared history

In his role as Aboriginal affairs minister, Wyatt slammed Rio Tinto for its destruction of 46,000 year old rock shelters in the Juukan Gorge last May.

The mining giant legally blew up the culturally and historically significant site despite protests from Indigenous groups and archaeologists.

As a result, two of Rio Tinto’s senior executives and its CEO left the company in September, albeit with healthy payouts. Rio Tinto’s former chair Simon Thompson later left his position as well, as a result of the backlash.

In September 2020, Wyatt was quoted by ABC News as saying:

What has happened with Rio Tinto, they have a great absence in the Pilbara now, they don’t have an understanding of the community in which they generate the vast majority of their earnings.

One of the greatest risks to their operation is the fact that they don’t appear to have a significant presence as a company. I don’t mean the local executives and the local team here, but as a board.

Rio Tinto’s new board member

Wyatt will join the Rio Tinto board as a non-executive director in September this year. He has held government roles as Western Australia’s treasurer, minister for Aboriginal affairs, minister for finance, and minister for energy.

Rio Tinto’s announcement of his appointment quoted Wyatt as saying:

I have deep respect for the resources sector in Australia and have long been impressed with the professionalism and commitment demonstrated by Rio Tinto.

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.

Commentary from management

Commenting on Wyatt’s appointment, Rio Tinto chair Simon Thompson said:

With family links to the Pilbara and an impressive track record in public life, Ben’s knowledge of public policy, finance, international trade and Indigenous affairs will significantly add to the depth of knowledge on the board at a time when we are seeking to strengthen relationships with key stakeholders in Australia and around the world.

Rio Tinto share price snapshot

The Rio Tinto share price has performed well on the ASX lately. Currently, the Rio Tinto share price is 7% higher than it was at the start of 2021. It’s also gained 25% since this time last year.

The mining giant has a market capitalisation of around $47 billion, with approximately 1.6 billion shares outstanding.

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Motley Fool contributor Brooke Cooper has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia’s parent company Motley Fool Holdings Inc. has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.

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