MELBOURNE: Rio Tinto Ltd mentioned on Wednesday its chair and a board director would step down, bowing to investor stress over the destruction of two historic Aboriginal rock shelters for an iron ore mine final yr in Western Australia.
Simon Thompson will step down as chairman following subsequent yr’s annual basic conferences, whereas non-executive director Michael L’Estrange can even retire from the board after this yr’s conferences, Rio mentioned in an announcement.
“I’m in the end accountable for the failings that led to this tragic occasion,” Thompson mentioned within the assertion on Wednesday.
The destruction of the 46,000-year-old Juukan Gorge rock shelters final yr sparked a public and investor uproar that led to the resignation of then CEO Jean-Sebastien Jacques and two deputies.
Thompson and L’Estrange have come below stress to depart after what was seen because the board’s mishandling of an investigation into the destruction that discovered no single particular person accountable.
Thompson got here below extra stress final month after elders of the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura individuals accused him of breaking a private promise.
The Australian Council of Superannuation Traders (ACSI) welcomed the board change in recognition of accountability for cultural and operational failures, which it mentioned additionally supplied an opportunity for board renewal.
“The destruction of the Juukan caves resulted in a devastating cultural loss. At present’s announcement is a step in direction of the corporate rebuilding relationships with Conventional House owners,” ACSI CEO Louise Davidson mentioned.
“Particularly, traders want to see the Board improve its reference to Australian operations and communities, in addition to a rise in mining expertise.”
Rio Tinto’s board final yr selected Danish businessman Jakob Stausholm for the highest job, though some Australian traders had pushed for a pacesetter with sturdy expertise of native Indigenous points. Stausholm joined Rio as its Chief Monetary Officer in 2018 and will likely be primarily based in London.
Final month, Rio’s remuneration committee handed chunky payouts to all three executives compelled to depart.
Jacques, who stepped down from his position on the finish of 2020, obtained whole remuneration of 13.three million kilos ($18.6 million) below Australian accounting guidelines, up from 7.1 million kilos a yr earlier.
Impartial administrators Sam Laidlaw and Simon McKeon will lead the seek for the brand new Chair, Rio mentioned.
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