Rio Tinto boss Jean-Sebastien Jacques and two senior executives will exit the company after an investor revolt over the destruction of the ancient Juukan Gorge rock shelters in Western Australia.

Mr Jacques, iron ore boss Chris Salisbury and corporate affairs boss Simone Niven will all depart the company within the next year.

The mining giant said the departure was by “mutual agreement”.

“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,” Rio Tinto chairman Simon Thompson said.

“We are also determined to regain the trust of the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people and other Traditional Owners.”

The Rio board had initially ruled that financial penalties were sufficient for the three executives, stripping $7 million from their 2020 bonuses.

Today’s decision follows months of escalating pressure from Aboriginal groups, shareholders and government officials after Rio Tinto blew up caves in the Pilbara region which had significant importance to the traditional owners of the land in May.

The mining giant had approval for the blast but subsequent evidence indicated the traditional owners did not provide informed consent.

Rio has admitted overlooking key information about the cultural significance of the sites and not informing the PKKP that it had examined other options for expanding its mine that did not involve damaging the rock shelters.

Rio has faced significant investor backlash over the blast, which allowed it to extract an additional $US135 million ($A188 million) worth of high-grade iron ore.

Members of a Senate committee are expected next month to visit PKKP country as they continue to examine the incident.

It’s understood the committee wants to meet with PKKP representatives before recalling Rio to give further evidence. 

 

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