19/06/2007 - 22:00

Miners lift influence

19/06/2007 - 22:00

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If the amount of money invested in Western Australia is a measure of influence, then the top executives at a handful of big resource companies are among the most influential people in the state.

Miners lift influence

If the amount of money invested in Western Australia is a measure of influence, then the top executives at a handful of big resource companies are among the most influential people in the state.

The big spenders in WA are led by BHP Billiton Ltd and Rio Tinto Ltd, which have each committed to spend more than $6 billion over seven years expanding their iron ore mining and exporting operations in the Pilbara.

Sam Walsh is the chief executive of Rio’s global iron ore business, reporting direct to the company’s chief executive, Tom Albanese, in London.

His number two in WA is Dave Smith, the managing director of Pilbara Iron. Given the scale of Rio’s iron ore business and its massive expansion program, Mr Smith and senior members of his executive team have far more commercial influence than the chief executives of most WA companies.

BHP’s top man in WA is Ian Ashby, global president of its iron ore customer sector group.

Mr Ashby’s number two is Tim Crossley, who was promoted earlier this year to the position of president and chief operating officer, iron ore WA.

Another very senior Perth-based executive at BHP is Jimmy Wilson, president of the group’s stainless steel materials customer sector group.

This includes the former WMC Resources nickel business, acquired by BHP in 2005, and the group’s $2.8 billion Ravensthorpe nickel project.

On the iron ore front, the other big player in WA is Andrew Forrest’s Fortescue Metals Group Ltd.

FMG said this week it may raise a further $1.25 billion to expand its 45 million tonnes per annum project, which is due to start shipping ore in May 2008.

The company also said it wanted to expand output to 200mt pa, which would make it bigger than BHP’s and Rio’s current operations.

Apart from the iron ore miners, the other company that is driving the resources boom is Woodside Petroleum Ltd, headed by Don Voelte.

It is managing the North West Shelf venture’s phase 5 and Angel gas projects, worth $4 billion, and will soon make a final decision on its $10 billion Pluto gas project.

Alumina producer Alcoa and oil and gas company Chevron have extensive operations in WA and are both looking at big expansion projects.

That makes Alcoa’s Australian boss, Wayne Osborn, and Chevron Australia boss, Jay Johnson, influential executives.

Outside of the resources sector, the state’s top executive is Wesfarmers Ltd boss Richard Goyder, who runs the largest industrial company in WA.

Other influential executives include Austal Ltd boss John Rothwell, whose influence reflects both the size of his business and his willingness to speak publicly on policy issues such as industrial relations, skills training and skilled immigration.

A new face on the scene is West Australian Newspapers Holdings Ltd chief executive Ken Stienke, who took up the role in July last year.

He runs one of the state’s larger businesses, but more significantly has an important role in shaping the group’s editorial direction and evaluating the performance of The West’s editor, Paul Armstrong.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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