Rio Tinto’s CEO Jean-Sebastian Jacques to quit following widespread condemnation over destruction of Aboriginal site

Rio Tinto’s CEO Jean-Sebastian Jacques to quit following widespread condemnation over destruction of Aboriginal site

Rio TInto’s Jean-Sebastien Jacques is to quit as CEO after bowing to pressure over the mining giant’s destruction of an important Aboriginal site.

The Anglo-Australian company has faced widespread condemnation for the loss of the ancient indigenous rock shelters in the iron ore-rich Pilbara region of Western Australia.

Rio Tinto said the decision for Jacques to go was by “mutual agreement” as the world’s second biggest miner looks to rebuild trust in the wake of the incident in May. He will remain in his role until March 31, unless a replacement is found before then.

As well as Jacques, who has been in charge since 2016, Rio said iron ore head Chris Salisbury and corporate affairs chief Simone Niven would leave by the end of the year.

Rio Tinto chairman Simon Thompson said: “What happened at Juukan was wrong and we are determined to ensure that the destruction of a heritage site of such exceptional archaeological and cultural significance never occurs again at a Rio Tinto operation.”

He added that the company was also determined to regain the trust of the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people as well as other Traditional Owners.

The company has been criticised by stakeholders over a lack of individual accountability, which they said undermined the group’s ability to implement changes recommended in a recent review.

Keren Adams, legal director at the Human Rights Law Centre, said while the removal of the three senior executives was an important first step it must not be the last.

“At last we are seeing some proper accountability at the top for Rio Tinto’s destruction of Juukan Gorge. The company’s initial response of docking executives’ bonuses was patently inadequate given the significance of the site.

“But this is only the first step. The company must now follow this action up with proper reparations to the Traditional Owners and start walking the talk on human rights and cultural heritage protection.”

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