Rio Tinto: Chief executive to quit over destruction of Aboriginal caves

image copyrightAFP
image captionJuukan Gorge cave site before and after mining works

The boss of Rio Tinto, Jean-Sebastien Jacques, will step down following criticism of the mining giant’s destruction of sacred Aboriginal sites.

In May, the world’s biggest iron ore miner destroyed two ancient caves in Pilbara, Western Australia.

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

It has sparked widespread condemnation from shareholders and the public.

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

The board said Mr Jacques would remain as the chief executive until March, or until a successor was appointed.

Other senior executives – including the heads of the miner’s iron ore section and corporate relations – will also leave the company at the end of the year.

Australia’s parliament is currently holding an inquiry into the miner’s actions.

Rio Tinto also held its own inquiry earlier this year, after which the company cut bonuses for directors and began attempts at repairing relations with Aboriginal communities.

“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,” said chairman Simon Thompson.

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