Rio Tinto (ASX:RIO) announces CEO exit following Juukan destruction

The Rio Tinto Limited (ASX:RIO) share price is under pressure today after announcing the exit of its CEO in response to the Juukan destruction…

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Red exit sign on brick wall

The Rio Tinto Limited (ASX: RIO) share price has come under pressure today after the mining giant announced the impending exit of its chief executive.

At the time of writing the Rio Tinto share price is down almost 1% to $99.70.

What did Rio Tinto announce?

This morning Rio Tinto revealed that following a review of Cultural Heritage Management, which was undertaken in response to the destruction of the Juukan rockshelters in May, the board has been engaging extensively with shareholders, Traditional Owners, Indigenous leaders, and other stakeholders.

While the company notes that there has been support for the changes recommended by the review, significant stakeholders have expressed concerns about executive accountability for the failings identified.

In light of this, by mutual agreement, Mr J-S Jacques will step down from his role as an Executive Director and Chief Executive of Rio Tinto.

A search for a successor has begun and Mr Jacques will remain in his role until the earlier of an appointment being made or 31 March 2021. This is to ensure business continuity and maintain the strong performance of its global operations during COVID-19.

Other executive changes.

It isn’t just J-S Jacques that will be exiting the company. Following him will be the Chief Executive of Iron Ore, Chris Salisbury. He has stepped down from the role with immediate effect and will be replaced on an interim basis by Ivan Vella. Mr Vella is currently Managing Director for Rail, Port & Core Services within Rio Tinto Iron Ore.

Simone Niven will also step down as Group Executive, Corporate Relations, and will leave the company on 31 December 2020 after completing an orderly transition of her responsibilities.

“What happened at Juukan was wrong”.

Rio Tinto chairman Simon Thompson commented: “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.”

“I would like to thank J-S for his strong leadership of the Group since becoming Chief Executive in 2016. During that time, he has led the best safety performance in Rio Tinto’s history, simplified the portfolio, divested the Group’s coal assets, established a clear strategy to address climate change and generated exceptional shareholder returns. His leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic, in particular, has been exemplary,” he concluded.

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