Wagyl Kaip Noongar man Matthew Hansen is breaking barriers as one of the first Aboriginal chief executives of an ASX-listed company.

Mining company Pantera Minerals is about to list on the ASX, after an initial public offering and with three mining projects in WA’s north.

After spending his early 20s working at Coles, Mr Hansen never expected to be the chief executive of a mining company.

“I thought I was pretty fortunate to pass uni, to pass law if I’m honest about it,” Mr Hansen told NIT.

Mr Hansen has a legal background and has worked on both sides of the table, for mining companies and negotiating on behalf of Traditional Owners.

“I think I’m quite unique because I’ve acted both sides, and also been in-house for operators, so I understand all the pathways coming into a project, and I also can see how Traditional Owners can get involved with a project from exploration all the way up,” he said.

“I’m not just a black and white lawyer who negotiates a deal and walks away.”

Mr Hansen has a long career in practising law and holding board positions.

He is currently a non-executive director at educational non-profit MADALAH and is involved with the Wirra Hub.

Mr Hansen said stepping out of his legal career and into a chief executive role was about tackling new challenges, like the ability to mentor.

He said mentoring has been a big part of his career progression.

“I think in our jobs, you should always be mentoring someone below you, and I’ve got mentors as well,” Mr Hansen said.

“It’s fantastic to see, as a lawyer doing work for the Wirra Hub, that we’re seeing Indigenous businesses grow up and come along.”

Pantera’s new Yampi mine presents opportunities for the company in an area that has not been explored before.

It is 140km from Derby and 5km from the coast and there are easy access routes to ship the iron ore.

“No one has drilled or explored for iron ore in the area, ever. For us to put a hole in there, we’re the first ones going in there,” Mr Hansen said.

“People have looked around — other companies have looked there before and have tried but their tenements have never come off.”

Working in the resources sector in the aftermath of the Juukan Gorge disaster, Mr Hansen said there is a fine line to walk when working with Traditional Owners but hopes to be able to give back to the community through his role.

He said it is important to have greater resourcing of Traditional Owner groups, to get good lawyers and savvy businesspeople assisting in negotiations with mining companies.

“Across WA, a lot of Traditional Owner groups don’t have good people around them. Fortunately, up in Yampi, they’ve got really good advisers around them, and I think there has been calls recently for funding for other groups to be able to have that support,” he said.

Mr Hansen believes it is possible to strike the right balance between competing interests in a project.

“I’ve still got to run a business and build that business and deliver shareholder value, but at the same time acknowledge that we are in an area of significant importance, and the Traditional Owners are an important stakeholder and as such will be viewed as one.”

By Sarah Smit