Rio Tinto announces executive changes following cave destruction
Rio Tinto announced that J-S Jacques, executive director and chief executive of the group, will step down from his position a result of the destruction of the Juukan rockshelters in Australia in May 2020.
The company announced that by mutual agreement, Jacques, as well as Chris Salisbury, chief executive – iron ore and Simone Niven, group executive – corporate communications, will all step down from their respective positions following pressure from shareholders and other stakeholders.
The moves come in the wake of the company’s Board Review of Cultural Heritage Management that was released on Aug. 24. In a press release on Sept. 11, Rio Tinto writes that it has “engaged extensively with shareholders, Traditional Owners, Indigenous leaders and other stakeholders. While there is general recognition of the transparency of the Board Review and support for the changes recommended, significant stakeholders have expressed concerns about executive accountability for the failings identified.”
Rio Tinto chairman Simon Thompson said: “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. 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.”
A process to identify Jacques’ successor is underway. He will remain in his role until the appointment of his successor or 31 March 2021, whichever is earlier. This will ensure business continuity to maintain the strong performance of the Group’s global operations during COVID-19.
Ivan Vella, currently Managing Director for Rail, Port & Core Services within Rio Tinto Iron Ore, will replace Salisbury on an interim basis, following a handover period.
Niven will step down Dec. 31, 2020 after completing an orderly transition of her responsibilities. As previously announced, Rio Tinto is establishing a new Social Performance assurance function, reporting to Mark Davies, Group Executive, HSE, Technical and Projects, to strengthen oversight of communities and heritage practices and performance within the operations.
In order to enhance Board engagement in Australia, Simon McKeon, non-executive director, is appointed Senior Independent Director, Rio Tinto Limited with immediate effect. This newly created Board role will complement the existing Senior Independent Director role, which will continue to be performed by Sam Laidlaw for Rio Tinto plc.
“Rio Tinto is a financially and operationally robust business with world-class assets, a clear strategy and outstanding people. We are determined to learn the lessons from Juukan and to re-establish our reputation as a leader in communities and heritage management,” said Thompson.
The separation terms, including the retention of long term incentive awards, for all three individuals are in line with our Group Remuneration Policy and their applicable contractual terms. They will continue to be subject to the financial penalties previously disclosed in the Board Review. The details of the separation arrangements will be disclosed as appropriate.