Rio Tinto chairman quits over Aboriginal web site injury in Australia

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Anglo-Australian mining big triggered an outcry final 12 months when it blew up the 46,000-year-old rock shelters at Juukan Gorge.

The chairman of the Anglo-Australian mining firm mining big, Rio Tinto, has introduced that he’ll step down after the corporate triggered a public outcry by destroying an historic Aboriginal web site in Western Australia to extract $135m price of iron ore.

Rio blew up the 46,000-year-old rock shelters at Juukan Gorge final Might, sparking a public backlash and investor revolt that led to the resignation of the corporate’s CEO and two high executives final September.

The caves had been one of many earliest recognized areas inhabited by Australia’s Indigenous folks and contained a few of the oldest Aboriginal artefacts ever discovered within the nation.

Rio Tinto chairman Simon Thompson mentioned the destruction had “overshadowed” the corporate’s successes in 2020 – throughout which it paid a document dividend to buyers due to booming iron ore costs.

“As chairman, I’m finally accountable for the failings that led to this tragic occasion,” he mentioned in a press release.

Thompson mentioned he wouldn’t search re-election on the firm’s annual basic conferences in 2022, permitting a transition interval till a substitute is appointed.

He known as the destruction “a supply of private unhappiness and deep remorse, in addition to being a transparent breach of our values as an organization”.

The corporate’s non-executive director Michael L’Estrange will even retire from the board after this 12 months’s conferences.

‘By no means once more’

Thompson and L’Estrange have come beneath strain to go away after what was seen because the board’s mishandling of an investigation into the destruction that discovered no single particular person accountable.

Thompson got here beneath much more criticism final month after elders of the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura folks (PKKP) accused him of breaking a private promise.

The Juukan Gorge web site was thought of sacred by the PKKP of Western Australia.

Though Rio Tinto had permission from the state authorities to blast within the space, the PKKP mentioned they’d warned that the location of some explosives would destroy two heritage rock shelters.

A parliamentary inquiry into the destruction really useful the mining agency pay restitution, rebuild the destroyed web site and decide to a everlasting moratorium on mining within the space.

The Juukan Gorge web site was thought of sacred by the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura folks of Western Australia [File: Christian Sprogoe/Rio Tinto handout photo]

“By no means once more can we permit the destruction, the devastation and the vandalism of cultural websites as has occurred with the Juukan Gorge – by no means once more,” mentioned Warren Entsch, the chairman of the investigative panel mentioned when an interim report was launched in December.

Whereas the total parliamentary inquiry report will not be due till the second half of this 12 months, the panel emphasised that Rio Tinto should perform the reconstruction and rehabilitation at its personal expense.

All artefacts taken from the destroyed websites should even be returned, and all settlement reached with conventional house owners of the holy websites should be reviewed.

The Australasian Centre for Company Accountability (ACCR), an activist group with shares in Rio Tinto, had additionally identified that whereas firm officers understood the historic significance of the Aboriginal web site, it nonetheless determined “to blow them up anyway”.

“What kind of particular person arrives at this determination? What kind of firm places, and retains, them in cost? What sort of CEO refuses to take any accountability for the actions of his senior administration?” ACCR director Brynn O’Brien was quoted by information stories as saying.

In response to estimates, Rio Tinto has a valuation of $123bn. The corporate can be going through a number of allegations of corruption and environmental destruction in different elements of the world, together with in China, Papua New Guinea and the USA.

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