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Top public servant Michael L'Estrange joins Rio Tinto board

New man on the board: Michael L'Estrange.

New man on the board: Michael L'Estrange. Photo: Reuters

Rio Tinto's long-held promise to increase the Australian representation on its board has been delivered this morning, with the announcement that Michael L'Estrange AO will become a director.

Professor L'Estrange's strong suit is in public policy and he has previously served as secretary of the department of foreign affairs and trade in Canberra.

His stint on the board will start on September 1.

He joins chief executive Sam Walsh, chief financial officer Chris Lynch, and former footballer Mike Fitzpatrick as Australians on the board.

The Australian quota is symbolically important for Rio given it is listed here (as well as in London), and makes the vast majority of its profits here in iron ore.

The company also has coal, diamond and bauxite mines here, and several aluminium assets.

The announcement comes two months after French citizen Anne Lavergeon, the former boss of uranium firm Areva, and Simon Thompson, a former mining engineer with contractor AMEC, were appointed to the board.

South African Jan du Plessis has been chairman of Rio since 2009, and subtly indicated last month that he intended to remain in the job for at least one more year, if not more.

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