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How blowing up a sacred site exploded in the face of Rio Tinto boss

Business

The board of Rio Tinto has finally acted on the Juukan Gorge debacle with chief executive J-S Jacques resigning after a shareholder rebellion.

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The board made what it said was a mutual decision after an internal review of the controversy in which Rio blew up a sacred Aboriginal heritage site to make way for its iron ore developments found no one responsible.

Superannuation funds and other investment groups have been highly critical of the handling of the issue and this has forced Rio’s hand,  but they said it had been a mutual decision with Jacques who will remain in his role until a successor is found or March 31, whichever is earlier.

The head of the iron ore division, Chris Salisbury, has also stood down and corporate relations boss Simone Nevin will leave at the end of the year.

The decision has been seen as inevitable after the public outrage of the Juukan Gorge.

Chairman Simon Thompson admitted what happened at Juukan Gorge, in Western Australia, was “wrong” and said the company was determined that such a destruction of Aboriginal heritage and “exceptional archeological and cultural significance nevers occurs again in a Rio Tinto operation”.

He said the company now had to regain the trust of the Indigenous people and accepted shareholder concerns about accountability.

He also said Jacques’ leadership in other areas had been “exemplary”.

“I would also like to thank Chris and Simone for the contribution both made to the success of Rio Tinto over many years. I know all three individuals, like the rest of the board, deeply regret the destruction of the Juukan rockshelters,” he said.

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