Rio Tinto CEO goes in wake of ancient site destruction

Rio Tinto CEO goes in wake of ancient site destruction

This newly created board role will complement the existing senior independent director role, which will continue to be performed by Sam Laidlaw.

Following a board investigation into the May 24 incident, Rio Tinto said chief executive Jean-Sebastien Jacques was stepping down "by mutual agreement" along with the chief of the company's core iron ore division, Chris Salisbury, and corporate relations head Simone Niven.

The dig uncovered the oldest known example of bone tools in Australia, a sharpened kangaroo bone dating back 28,000 years, and a plaited-hair belt that DNA testing linked to indigenous people still living in the area.

In a statement, Rio Tinto said that stakeholders had expressed their concerns "about the accountability of the executive branch for failures".

Brian O'Brien, executive director of the Active Investor at the Australian Center for Corporate Responsibility, said the implementation changes "should act as a wake-up call for the Australian iron ore sector and mining companies around the world".

After the caves were destroyed, a PKKP representative, John Ashburton, said losing the site was a "devastating blow".

In a statement Friday, the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura Aboriginal Corp., which administers their traditional lands, said that "we can not and will not allow this type of devastation to occur ever again".

"We looking closely at the separation arrangements, with the expectation that any exit won't provide a windfall", said Louise Davidson, CEO of the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors.

Indigenous activists and leaders struck a similar note, saying that while the move by Rio Tinto was unprecedented for a company of its size, it fell far short of making up for the loss of irretrievable sites to mining.

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"There's no one on that board with any real understanding of the Aboriginal groups who own the country on which they operate", Wyatt, who is also the state's indigenous affairs minister, told public broadcaster ABC.

In June, rival miner BHP also halted its plans to expand its mine in the Pilbara region in June following the outcry over Rio's actions.

"We hope this sends a strong message to the entire mining industry: you must join the 21st century and start taking your environmental and social stewardship seriously", said Jamie Lowe, director of the NNTC in a statement.

"It was slow because when it knew the significance of those sites it could have reversed its position and it didn't", he said. "I'm not surprised that we've moved onto this stage where the chief executive felt that he had to go". Rio Tinto announced last month that Jacques would lose $3.5 million in bonuses due to the destruction in May of Australian Indigenous sacred sites.

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Last month Mr Jacques and two senior executives were stripped of their multimillion-dollar bonuses for 2020.

Many saw cutting the pay of already very high-earning executives as showing a clear lack of touch, and nowhere near a satisfactory retribution for those responsible for overseeing community relations.

Rio Tinto destroyed the caves, in the Pilbara Desert in Western Australia, with government approval but against the objections of two peoples with deep connections to them, the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and the Pinikura.

But given how they've handled this scandal, it's hard to see that happening any time soon.

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