Mining magnate Gina Rinehart has urged Rio Tinto’s new boss Sam Walsh to move the headquarters of the Anglo/Australian resources giant back to Australia - and then join the fight against Julia Gillard’s mining tax.
In a shock move late last week, Rio Tinto boss Tom Albanese stepped down after the global miner announced a multi-billion dollar writedown of its aluminium and coal assets, to be replaced by Mr Walsh, the head of the company’s iron ore arm.
In a statement released on Sunday, the supremo of Hancock Prospecting, who co-owns the massive Hope Downs joint venture with Rio, said she was disappointed Mr Albanese had been replaced.
But she said the appointment of Mr Walsh, who has managed Rio’s iron ore business from Perth, was a chance to bring the headquarters of Rio to Western Australia where she says “it logically belongs”.
“In congratulating Sam on his promotion to such an important position within Rio Tinto, we have urged him to take this opportunity and also move the Rio Tinto headquarters from London to Perth where given most of Rio Tinto’s revenue is generated in Australia, it logically belongs,” Ms Rinehart said in a statement.
“We also hope other Australians will join our call that now that there is an Australian CEO for Rio Tinto, and given the history of mainly success for Rio Tinto’s projects in Australia, a renewed emphasis will be undertaken by Rio Tinto to reinvest more of the profits it earns in Australia.
“(That will) benefit ... its shareholders who have seen much diminution in value via investments in risky countries, and for the benefit of Australia, which given its increasing debts, greatly needs.”
A long-time vocal opponent of the Minerals Resource Rent Tax, Ms Rinehart called on Mr Walsh to make his own immediate and loud submissions to the federal government.
“We hope Rio Tinto and Sam will lose no time in advising the Australian government in clear and straightforward terms, what it would wish to make the decisions to increase its investment in Australia,” the statement, released to the Australia Financial Review, stated.
“No uncompetitive carbon tax springs to mind as one example to help interest in investment and reduce the increasing problem and very great concern of Australia’s diminishing cost competitiveness.”
The stock market reacted positively on Friday to Mr Walsh’s appointment, despite Rio revealing a $US14 billion ($A13.30 billion) writedown of Rio’s aluminium assets and Mozambique coal assets alongside the departure of Mr Albanese.
After announcing Mr Walsh as Mr Albanese’s successor, it was said he would relocate to London in his new role and receive a base salary of $A1.9 million.
Ms Rinehart said Rio’s best investments in recent years had been their joint venture in the Hope Downs project, which Mr Walsh had been “intimately involved in”.
“We look forward to Sam providing the leadership and adding to the great success Hope Downs has been for the Rio Tinto group by committing to develop other Hope Downs resources in a timely manner,” the statement said.
“These much earlier Rio Tinto decisions to invest in West Australia have not only transformed Rio Tinto from a small miner to one of the world’s largest mining houses, but also saved Rio Tinto group from going down the gurgler late last decade.”