The fate of Rio Tinto boss Jean-Sébastien Jacques is in the balance as shareholder pressure mounts for executive scalps after the global mining company destroyed a 46,000-year-old significant Aboriginal site at Juukan Gorge in Western Australia.

Rio Tinto’s admission in a Friday night information dump that it hired lawyers to prepare for a potential injunction to stop it blowing up two caves at Juukan Gorge has added to investor pressure that has ramped up ahead of a meeting of the company’s board set for Thursday, Australian time.

Guardian Australia understands Jacques met with representatives from the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura (PKKP) Aboriginal Corporation this week. The PKKP would not comment on the meeting, saying in a statement that it was working to recover its relationship with the mining giant.

“This includes private meetings and discussions with senior executives to share our feelings and attempt to establish a way forward to repair, rebuild and grow our relationship,” they said.

“In the interests of maintaining integrity in this process, and in line with our approach to date, the PKKPAC would prefer to not offer further comment publicly at this time.”

The company’s board cut millions from the bonuses of Jaques and iron ore head Chris Salisbury last month but investors have demanded more.

Ian Silk, the chief executive of Australia’s largest superannuation fund, AustralianSuper, said the “penalties fall significantly short of appropriate accountability for those responsible” and the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors chief executive, Louise Davidson, said executive accountability needed to go “further than just a financial penalty”.

On Tuesday, the UK-based Local Authority Pension fund (LAPFF), worth £300bn ($540bn), piled more pressure on the Rio Tinto board, with the chair, Doug McMurdo, expressing concern about the company’s continued insistence that senior managers did not know what was happening at Juukan Gorge.

The Australian Centre for Corporate Responsibility said Rio Tinto’s behaviour “beggars belief”.

“After blasting Juukan Gorge in May, Rio Tinto assured investors and journalists that the company would be seen in a better light once all the facts emerged,” its legal counsel, James Fitzgerald, said.

“Precisely the opposite is proving to be true. The minutes show deliberate efforts to lawyer up and defend the destruction that hadn’t yet occurred. There is no record of surprise, shock, regret or remorse by Rio executives.”

The mining company destroyed two rock shelters in Juukan Gorge in the Pilbara region of Western Australia on 24 May, despite having received at least five separate reports on the significance of the sites, both archeologically and to the local Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people, since 2013.

PKKP spokesman Burchell Hayes has previously said the corporation “only found out by default on 15 May when we sought access to the area for Naidoc Week in July”.

The PKKP people said the destruction of the site – which has triggered global condemnation of the company, a review of WA’s outdated Aboriginal heritage legislation and a federal parliamentary inquiry – was “soul-destroying”.


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