The powerful Australian Council of Superannuation Investors (ACSI) has welcomed the departure of Rio Tinto chairman Simon Thompson in the wake of the Juukan Gorge fiasco.
Simon Thompson has informed the board of Rio Tinto that he will not seek re-election at the 2022 annual general meeting, saying “the tragic events at Juukan Gorge are a source of personal sadness and deep regret”.
“Over the past eight months, we have engaged extensively with investors, government, civil society, Indigenous leaders and, most importantly, Traditional Owners, to learn the lessons from Juukan Gorge,” Mr Thompson said.
“We have taken decisive action to address the weaknesses identified in our risk management and governance, while also acknowledging the need to improve our work culture and to rebuild relationships.”
ACSI – which had called for C-suite heads to roll following the destruction of the 46,000-year-old rock shelters – welcomed the decision, saying it was a “step towards the company rebuilding relationships” with traditional owners.
“Today’s announcement means the board can be renewed. In particular, investors would like to see the Board increase its connection with Australian operations and communities, as well as an increase in mining experience. The destruction of the Juukan caves resulted in a devastating cultural loss,” said ACSI chief executive Louise Davidson.
Rio Tinto’s own review of the decisions that led to its destruction of the rock shelters found that while it had legal authority to “impact” the site, the move fell short of its own standards and internal guidance.
“It is clear that no single individual or error was responsible for the destruction of the Juukan [rock shelters], but there were numerous missed opportunities over almost a decade and the company failed to uphold one of Rio Tinto’s core values – respect for local communities and for their heritage,” Mr Thompson said at the time.
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