Stepping Tinto

Rio Tinto CEO Stepping Down Over Destruction Of Ancient Aboriginal Site – NPR

Protesters rallied outside the Rio Tinto office in June in Perth, Australia, after the destruction of Indigenous heritage sites the month before.

Richard Wainwright/AP

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Richard Wainwright/AP

Protesters rallied outside the Rio Tinto office in June in Perth, Australia, after the destruction of Indigenous heritage sites the month before.

Richard Wainwright/AP

Mining giant Rio Tinto is parting ways with its chief executive as it tries to quell public anger over the company’s destruction of a 46,000-year-old sacred Aboriginal site in Australia.

In May, the company blasted through two rock shelters in Juukan Gorge in Western Australia in order to mine iron ore. Evidence of human habitation there dates back tens of millennia.

The destruction in the Pilbara region was not illegal under Australian law, according to local media reports. Rio Tinto obtained permission to mine in the area in 2013, “a right which was not affected by the discovery of ancient artefacts such as stone relics, faunal remains and human hair in one of the Juukan caves a year later,” Australia’s ABC noted.

But “what happened at Juukan was wrong,” the company’s chairman, Simon Thompson, said in a statement Friday. “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.”

With Their Land In Flames, Aboriginals Warn Fires Show Deep Problems In Australia

Jean-Sébastien Jacques, the company’s chief executive and executive director, will depart by “mutual agreement,” Rio Tinto said. He’ll remain in the role until a replacement is found or by March 31, whichever comes first.

Two other high-ranking executives, iron-ore division head Chris Salisbury and corporate relations head Simone Niven, are also leaving the company.

A month after the destruction in Juukan Gorge, the company issued an apology and said it would support strengthening legal protections for Aboriginal heritage sites.

Last month, after a board review, Rio Tinto stripped the three executives of performance-related bonuses for this year. That review concluded that even though the company had legal permission, its actions “fell short of the Standards and internal guidance that Rio Tinto sets for itself.”

Friday’s announcement came after “significant stakeholders have expressed concerns about executive accountability,” according to the company.

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

Critics of Rio Tinto say there is abundant evidence that the company was aware of the site’s importance before the blasting. For example, as the BBC reported, “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.”

The Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura Aboriginal Corporation released a statement saying their people had no comment on the executive shakeup, ABC reported.

“We will continue to work with Rio Tinto in the aftermath of the Juukan Gorge disaster,” the statement said.

“Our focus continues to rest heavily on preserving Aboriginal heritage and advocating for wide-ranging changes to ensure a tragedy like this never happens again.”

Jamie Lowe is the chief executive of the National Native Title Council, which advocates for Australia’s traditional owners of the land. He said the group welcomes the changes at the top of Rio Tinto, but stressed there is more to be done.

“We do fear that if this is the behaviour of a company thought to have sector-leading standards, what is the risk another Juukan Gorge-type incident will happen again, without sector-wide reforms?” Lowe said in a statement.

He said Rio Tinto has so far refused to carry out an independent review of what led to the destruction — a step that the traditional owners see as critical to prevent further losses to priceless Indigenous sites.

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execs Tinto

Rio Tinto execs lose bonuses but keep jobs after destruction of ancient aboriginal caves – CNN

London (CNN Business)Rio Tinto will cut the bonuses of three senior executives by a combined £3.8 million ($5 million) after the company blew up a 46,000-year old sacred indigenous site in Australia to expand an iron ore mine.

In a report published Monday into the destruction of the Juukan Gorge caves in Western Australia in May, the company said that it failed to meet some of its own standards “in relation to the responsible management and protection of cultural heritage.”
But Rio Tinto stopped short of firing any executives, drawing criticism from investor groups who accused the company of failing to take full responsibility for the demolition of the caves, which had significant archeological value and deep cultural meaning for aboriginal people.
The site featured two cave systems that contained artifacts indicating tens of thousands of years of continuous human occupation. In a report given to Rio Tinto (RIO) before the planned expansion of its Brockman 4 mine, a leading Australian archeologist said the archaeological significance of the shelters “cannot be overstated.”
Demolition went ahead on May 24 despite a seven-year battle by the local custodians of the land, the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people, to protect the site. Rio Tinto apologized in June.
“It is clear that no single individual or error was responsible for the destruction of the Juukan rockshelters, but there were numerous missed opportunities over almost a decade and the company failed to uphold one of Rio Tinto’s core values — respect for local communities and for their heritage,” Chairman Simon Thompson said in a statement on Monday.
“We will implement important new measures and governance to ensure we do not repeat what happened,” he added.
Rio Tinto said it will withhold performance bonuses from CEO Jean-Sébastien Jacques, the head of its iron ore business Chris Salisbury, and group executive for corporate relations, Simon Niven.
In addition to having his £1.7 million ($2.2 million) bonus withdrawn this year, Jacques will have awards due to vest in 2021 reduced by £1 million ($1.3 million). The CEO earned £5.8 million ($7.6 million) in 2019 including salary, benefits, a bonus and stock awards, according to Rio Tinto’s latest annual report.
Investor groups in Australia said the company’s actions do not go far enough.
“The report from the Rio Tinto board review does not deliver any meaningful accountability for the destruction of some of the most significant cultural sites in Australia,” Louise Davidson, the CEO of the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors, said in a statement. The body represents institutional investors.
Not only did the destruction of the caves result in a “devastating cultural loss,” but it is of significant concern to investors because it puts at risk Rio Tinto’s “social licence to operate,” Davidson added.
“This is a devastating outcome for the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people, and a massive loss to the heritage of all Australians,” said Simon O’Connor, the CEO of the Responsible Investment Association Australasia. “The information revealed to date has exposed large failings in the internal processes to deliver upon the company’s own commitments to protecting indigenous heritage,” he added.
According to Rio Tinto, “material new information” that came to light after legal approvals for the mine were obtained in 2013 should have led it to reconsider its expansion plans.
For example, in a 2014 report, Australian archaeologist Michael Slack identified the shelters as “one of the most archaeologically significant sites in Australia.”
These findings were amplified in a final report provided to Rio Tinto four years later, in which Slack said the site “has the amazing potential to radically change our understanding of the earliest human behaviour in Australia… The significance of this cannot be overstated.”
The Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura Aboriginal Corporation did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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