Anglo-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto announced on Friday the resignation of its CEO, Frenchman Jean-Sébastien Jacques. A decision that follows shareholders’ anger after the explosion of sites of origin in Australia in May last year.
It was to expand an iron ore mine that the Anglo-Australian group Rio Tinto blew up the Juukan Gorge Cave in Western Australia, one of the oldest settlements in the country. “What happened in Juukan is a mistake,” mining giant Rio Tinto acknowledged on Friday, September 11, in a statement promising that this will not happen again.
Following an inquiry by the board into this incident, its chairman Simon Thompson announced the resignation “by mutual agreement” of Frenchman Jean-Sébastien Jacques, head of the “iron ore” department Chris Salisbury and communications manager Simone Niven.
Feeling in Australia
The destruction of the heritage site on May 24 caused a stir in Australia, which angered the shareholders of the Anglo-Australian mining group. “We have listened to our shareholders’ concerns that a lack of individual responsibility jeopardizes the Group’s ability to rebuild this trust and move forward to implement the changes that the Board is addressing,” explained his President Simon Thompson.
Jean-Sébastian Jacques will remain until a successor is appointed or until March 31, and the other two leaders will leave the company on December 31, he also said.
The three leaders had already been forced to give up bonuses by the end of August, especially for Jean-Sébastien Jacques to 3 million euros.
“Explosion is not the result of a single mistake”
The internal investigation showed that Rio Tinto had indeed been given the legal authority to destroy the website but that the group had not respected its own standards. She said the blast was not “the result of a single cause or a single fault”, but “the result of a series of decisions, actions and omissions over a long period”.
Rio Tinto first defended the destruction of the site, claiming that it was approved by the state government in 2013.
But the unrest created by Aboriginal officials, who said they had been informed of this destruction too late to prevent it, had prompted the group to apologize.
Oldest bone tool in Australia
The cultural significance of the site had been established through excavations carried out one year after Rio Tinto received permission to destroy it. These excavations revealed the oldest bone tool found so far in Australia, made 28,000 years ago from a kangaroo. DNA analysis had established a link between the settlement of the site and people who still live in the area.
The state of Western Australia is reviewing the laws governing mining activities near Aboriginal heritage.