Rio Tinto CEO, Other Executives To Resign Over Destruction Of Ancient Rock Shelters In Australia

Rio Tinto Plc’s chief executive officer J-S Jacques and two other executives will step down following criticism of the mining giant’s destruction of two ancient rock shelters in Western Australia.

Rio detonated explosives in May in an area of the Juukan Gorge, destroying the 46,000-year-old Aboriginal heritage site in Western Australia.

The company went ahead with blowing up the ancient rock shelters despite the opposition of Aboriginal traditional owners.

It has sparked widespread condemnation from shareholders, traditional owners and others.

On Friday, the company said in a statement that “significant stakeholders have expressed concerns about executive accountability for the failings identified”.

The Anglo-Australian mining giant said that Jacques would remain as the chief executive officer until 31 March 2021 or the appointment of his successor.

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.”

Chris Salisbury will step down as chief executive, Iron Ore with immediate effect and will leave the company on 31 December 2020. Ivan Vella, currently Managing Director for Rail, Port & Core Services within Rio Tinto Iron Ore, will replace him on an interim basis, following a handover period with Chris.

Simone Niven will step down as Group Executive, Corporate Relations, and will leave the group on 31 December 2020 after completing an orderly transition of her responsibilities.

Simon McKeon, non-executive director, is appointed Senior Independent Director, Rio Tinto Limited with immediate effect. The newly created Board role will complement the existing Senior Independent Director role, which will continue to be performed by Sam Laidlaw for Rio Tinto plc.

Last month, Rio Tinto said that it would cut this year’s bonuses of its chief executive officer and two other senior executives following a review of the company’s destruction of the two ancient rock shelters.

The company cut Jacques’ short-term bonuses of 1.70 million pounds. It would also reduce J-S Jacques’ 2016 long-term incentive plan award by 1 million pounds. The long-term incentive is due to vest in the first half of 2021.

Chris Salisbury, chief executive of Iron Ore; and Simone Niven, Group Executive, Corporate Relations would not receive their short-term bonuses of A$1.11 million and 525,000 pounds respectively.

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