BHP Billiton today appointed senior women to top executive roles in a move seen as boosting the chances of having more female directors in the male-dominated mining world.

Laura Tyler, currently chief geoscientist at the giant exploration company, will become chief technical officer, responsible for minerals exploration, health, safety and environment.The role puts her in charge of securing options to mine future key commodities around the world and puts her in the frame for the highest level boardroom positions.arge of all legal, governance, ethics and compliance work at the group, as well as corporate affairs.

 The post is particularly key as BHP is remembered for the catastrophe of the Mariana dam disaster in Brazil in 2015 when a dam at the iron ore mine in Samarco collapsed, destroying villages and killing 19 people.

Cox is currently BHP’s group general counsel and company secretary and has advised on major transactions, projects and global governance issues. Current external affairs chief Geoff Healy will leave at the end of December.

BHP’s executive leadership team also includes women in the form of Vandita Pan, chief commercial officer and Athalie Williams, chief people officer.

Also today it was announced Ragnar Udd would become president of minerals Americas. He will replace Daniel Malchuk, who will leave in December.

While corporate boards have been able to increase female representation on their non-executive boards, it has proved far tougher to do so on executive directorships because they tend to be drawn from department heads within the organisation.

Those senior executive committee roles are largely taken by men as women struggle to climb the career ladder.