Rio Tinto CEO to quit destruction of indigenous sites in Australia

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Rio Tinto chief executive Jean-Sébastien Jacques will leave the Anglo-Australian mining giant by March due to the destruction of Australian indigenous sacred sites for access to iron ore, the company said on Friday.“Important stakeholders have expressed concerns about management’s responsibility for identified failures,” Rio Tinto said in a statement.

By mutual agreement, Jacques will resign once a replacement has been appointed, or on March 31, whichever comes first, the statement said.

Executives Chris Salisbury and Simone Niven will leave the company on December 31.

Rio Tinto announced last month that Jacques would lose $ 3.5 million in bonuses and Salisbury and Niven about $ 700,000 each due to the destruction in May of two rock shelters in Juukan Gorge, Australia. -Western, inhabited for 46,000 years.

The mining giant also operates the Diavik diamond mine in the Northwest Territories, about 300 kilometers northeast of Yellowknife.

Protesters gather outside Rio Tinto’s office in Perth, Australia, June 9, 2020. Rio Tinto announced last month that Jacques would lose $ 3.5 million in bonuses due to the destruction in May of Indigenous sacred sites Australians. (Image by Richard Wainwright / AAP via AP)

Rio Tinto concluded in an internal review last month that there was “no root cause or single error that directly resulted in the destruction of the rock shelters.”

But internal documents revealed last week that Rio Tinto had hired a law firm in case the traditional owners, the people of Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura, sought a court injunction to save the rock shelters.

The government of Western Australia has promised to update indigenous heritage laws that allowed Rio Tinto to legally destroy sacred sites.

Focus on preserving Indigenous heritage

Jamie Lowe, chief executive of the National Native Title Council, which represents Australia’s traditional landowners, said he called on Rio Tinto to do more than cut executive bonuses.

Lowe praised the decision to replace all three executives.

“There has to be a cohesive theme showing that they are aware of indigenous cultural heritage and its protection,” Lowe said of the mining companies.

The traditional owners of the rock shelters had no comment on Rio Tinto’s leadership changes, Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura Aboriginal Corp said.

“We will continue to work with Rio Tinto after the Juukan Gorge disaster. Our focus remains strongly on preserving indigenous heritage and advocating far-reaching changes to ensure that a tragedy like this does not happen again, ”the company said in a statement.

“We cannot and will not allow this type of devastation to happen again,” the statement added.

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