29/08/2017 Rio Tinto chief executive JS Jacques with the latest tender of the mining company's valuable Argyle pink diamonds, photographed in Perth. pic Colin Murty The Australian
29/08/2017 Rio Tinto chief executive JS Jacques with the latest tender of the mining company's valuable Argyle pink diamonds, photographed in Perth. pic Colin Murty The Australian

Rio Tinto CEO steps down after blast crisis

UPDATE: 1.45pm RIO Tinto’s aluminium operations in Gladstone will not be impacted by a shake-up of executive management following the Juukan rock-shelters blast crisis, a spokesman has said.

The Rio Tinto spokesman said the management changes only impacted the CEO JS Jacques, the iron ore chief executive and corporate relations group executive.

The spokesman said the managing director, Pacific Operations, Rio Tinto Aluminium Kellie Parker was responsible for overseeing Gladstone assets.

Ms Parker reports to Rio Tinto Aluminium chief executive Alf Barrios, who is on the company’s executive committee and reports to the CEO.

Mr Barrios has headed up Rio Tinto’s aluminium operations since 2014.

On August 24 it was reported that Mr Jacques would lose his $4.9 million in bonuses over the Juukan rock-shelters scandal.

“By mutual agreement, JS Jacques will step down from his role as an executive director and Chief Executive of the Group,” a spokesman said.

“A process to identify his successor is underway.

“JS 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.

Rio Tinto said in a statement Chris Salisbury would step down as chief executive, iron ore with immediate effect and would leave Rio Tinto on December 31, 2020.

“Ivan Vella, currently managing director for rail, port and core services within Rio Tinto Iron Ore, will replace him on an interim basis, following a handover period with Chris,” the statement said.

“Simone Niven will step down as group executive, corporate relations, and will leave the Group on 31 December, 2020, after completing an orderly transition of her responsibilities.”

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.

“I would like to thank -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.

“I would also like to thank Chris and Simone for the contribution both have made to the success of Rio Tinto over many years.

“I know that all three individuals, like the rest of the Board, deeply regret the destruction of the Juukan rock-shelters.”

INITIAL REPORT: The executive management of global mining giant Rio Tinto is undergoing wholesale changes with CEO JS Jacques and other executives stepping down following the destruction of the Juukan rock-shelters.

Rio Tinto made the announcement this morning, which will see Mr Jacques, iron ore chief executive Chris Salisbury and corporate relations group executive Simone Niven also fall on their swords.

The culturally sensitive Juukan rock-shelters in the Western Australian Pilbara region were blown up by Rio Tinto on the weekend of May 23 and 24 this year.

The destruction of the sacred site, dating back more than 46,000 years was the subject of meetings by Rio Tinto’s Board Review of Cultural Heritage Management.

It has been reported that by blowing up the rock-shelters, Rio Tinto gained access to an estimated $135 million worth of high-grade iron ore.

It is unknown how these executive management changes will impact on Rio Tinto’s Gladstone interests.

More to come.

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