• Banjima elder Maitland Parker. (Supplied)Source: Supplied
A Pilbara native title organisation has added a former Rio Tinto mining executive to its board.
Karen Michelmore

28 Jul 2021 - 3:15 PM  UPDATED 28 Jul 2021 - 3:49 PM

A Pilbara Aboriginal organisation has appointed a former head of mining giant Rio Tinto to its board.

The Banjima Native Title Aboriginal Corporation (BNTAC) said former Rio Tinto Chief Executive Officer Sam Walsh will join the board as an independent director immediately.

Banjima elder Maitland Parker said Mr Walsh would bring a "unique perspective" which would be of benefit to the community, with invaluable industry knowledge and governance experience.

“We extend a warm welcome to Sam and look forward to having his unique perspective on the projects and  decisions that help our community,” Mr Parker said.

“Connection to Country is central to Banjima culture. Our traditional lands not only have some of the largest mining projects in Western Australia, but also hosts the largest contaminated area in the southern hemisphere: Wittenoom.

“Sam’s extensive experience in the mining sector and demonstrated track history with Aboriginal matters can support us in ensuring mining projects and conversations regarding issues like Wittenoom benefit Banjima People and our Country."

The decision comes a year after Rio Tinto caused shockwaves across Australia and globally after it destroyed two 46,000-year-old rock shelters at Juukan Gorge in the Pilbara.

Mr Walsh was not an employee of the mining company at the time, but told media last year that in 2013 while at the company he issued instructions for Rio Tinto not to mine the gorge because of its significance.

Banjima is currently working with Rio Tinto and BHP over mining leases on its country and the protection of its heritage sites.

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An investigation is still underway after a culturally significant rock shelter was damaged in January at BHP’s Mining Area C project in the Pilbara, causing a rockfall at the site. 

Mr Walsh is also currently a non-executive director of Mitsui (Japan) and Ma'aden Mining (Saudi Arabia),  as well as Chair of the Accenture Global Mining Council (UK), Gold Corporation (Aust), Perth Diocesan Trust and the Royal Flying Doctor Service (Western Operations).

Mr Walsh said he was delighted and honoured to be joining the board.

“Clearly there are a lot of issues occurring in the mining and native title space where I can help to advise the Banjima Directors,” Mr Walsh said.


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The changes come as the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura (PKKP) Aboriginal Corporation announced today it is looking for a new chief executive officer, with Carol Meredith to leave the role in September after four years.

“Carol has shown great leadership and provided invaluable support to the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura peoples, particularly following the destruction at Juukan Gorge,” chairwoman Donna Meyer said.

“Carol has been committed to working with our Board and members as we hold Rio Tinto to account for their actions and work to rebuild the relationship, while at the same time ensuring such a tragedy cannot happen again.

"Our work on a new agreement with Rio Tinto and the recovery/rehabilitation continues to move forward.”