Friday 11 September 2020 7:47 am

Rio Tinto boss steps down after Aboriginal cave blast

The chief executive of Rio Tinto will step down following criticism of the mining giant’s destruction of Aboriginal heritage sites in Australia.

Jean-Sebastien Jacques will remain in his role until the appointment of his successor or 31 March 2021, whichever is earlier, the company said this morning.

Read more: Future of Rio Tinto boss in doubt after Aboriginal cave destruction

The FTSE 100 boss has been under fierce scrutiny over the company’s decision to destroy a cave system in Juukan Gorge near Pilbara in western Australia despite opposition from Aboriginal traditional owners.

In August Jacques had his bonus reduced by £2.7m, but last week it emerged Rio Tinto had brought in lawyers to prepare for a potential injunction against its actions.

In a statement today the miner said the heads of its iron ore and corporate responsibility divisions will also step down.

“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.

“We are also determined to regain the trust of the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people and other traditional owners. We have listened to our stakeholders’ concerns that a lack of individual accountability undermines the group’s ability to rebuild that trust and to move forward to implement the changes identified in the board review.”

The move comes after pressure from investors to give executives additional penalties for their role in the incident.

Read more: Rio Tinto boss has bonus slashed by millions after mining giant destroys Aboriginal caves

The Church of England, which has a small stake in the company, yesterday condemned the firm’s handling of the incident.

Australia’s largest superannuation firm, Australia Super, and the UK-based Local Authority pension fund have both also hit out at Rio Tinto.