Rio Tinto boss Jean-Sebastien Jacques quits after destruction of Aboriginal site

Rio Tinto mine

Rio Tinto CEO goes in wake of ancient site destruction

Jacques, who has headed the Anglo-Australian firm since 2016, will remain chief executive until the end of March 2021 or until the company finds a replacement.

"There needs to be a consistent theme of them showing that they are conscious of Aboriginal cultural heritage and its protection", Lowe said of mining companies.

Chief Executive Ian Silk said the fund was "satisfied that appropriate responsibility has now been taken by executives at Rio Tinto", although nothing could "undo the destruction of the profoundly cultural significant sites in the Juukan Gorge, and the impact on the traditional owners of the land, the PKKP people".

Rio Tinto initially defended its blasting in the Juukan Gorge as authorised under a 2013 agreement with the state government.

Explosions in May to open up a mining area at an iron ore operation impacted two rock-shelters in the Juukan Gorge region of Western Australia's Pilbara region. Salisbury is stepping down from his position immediately and will leave the company at the end of the year. He referred to the destruction of two rock shelters in Western Australia containing artifacts indicating that humans had occupied them for tens of thousands of years.

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.

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The three executives were obliged to forfeit bonuses at the end of August, Jacques alone losing 3 million euros.

Rio Tinto's share price fell nearly 1% in Sydney on Friday.

In Friday's statement, Rio Tinto acknowledged that "significant stakeholders have expressed concerns about executive accountability for the failings identified".

"We are also determined to regain the trust of the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people and other Traditional Owners", Thomson said.

Last week it was revealed that in the days running up to the caves' destruction in May, Rio Tinto hired lawyers in case opponents tried to seek injunctions to stop them.

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".

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He and others said Rio Tinto's internal inquiries into the destruction of the caves had been slow-moving and inadequate.

"This is just the first step on a long path towards restoring Rio Tinto's good practice and reputation in its relationships with Indigenous peoples", James Fitzgerald, head of legal counsel and strategy at the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility, said in a statement.

"The community deserves the full facts of the Juukan Gorge disaster be told in a timely manner to ensure this kind of tragedy never happens again".

The Joint Standing Committee on Northern Australia has welcomed the dismissals, with Committee Chair Warren Entsch saying the need for high-level accountability had become obvious to Rio Tinto stakeholders.

"We can not and will not allow this type of devastation to occur ever again", the statement added.

That will all likely require an executive with experience of Western Australia's iron ore sector, an ear for community relations and the capability to usher through complex growth projects, said Andy Forster, senior investment officer at Argo Investments Ltd., which holds Rio shares.

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