Rio Tinto chairman Simon Thompson will step down inside the subsequent 12 months in response to investor opprobrium over the mining firm’s destruction final 12 months of a 46,000-year-old sacred indigenous website in Western Australia.
The Anglo-Australian miner mentioned on Wednesday that Thompson, a Briton, wouldn’t search re-election on the firm’s annual conferences, scheduled for April and Could 2022, and that it could start a seek for a successor.
Thompson’s resolution to face apart adopted a storm of criticism over the board’s initial decision to not hearth any of the executives accountable for blasting two historic rock shelters at Juukan Gorge in Could 2020 — an occasion that provoked a global backlash in opposition to Rio.
Strain from Australian pension funds and different traders pressured the resignations of former Rio chief government Jean-Sébastien Jacques and two different senior executives in September final 12 months.
Nevertheless, Rio’s disclosure final month that Jacques was awarded a 20 per cent pay rise in 2020 regardless of the cave blasts scandal drew renewed accusations of an absence of accountability on the miner.
Thompson mentioned in an announcement on Wednesday that he “was finally accountable for the failings that led to this tragic occasion” at Juukan Gorge, which overshadowed Rio’s different successes in 2020, together with the biggest dividend in its historical past.
“The tragic occasions at Juukan Gorge are a supply of non-public disappointment and deep remorse, in addition to being a transparent breach of our values as an organization,” he added.
Thompson, a former funding banker and senior government at miner Anglo American government, joined Rio’s board in 2014, and turn into chairman 4 years later.
One other Rio director, Michael L’Estrange, who led a controversial board inquiry into the destruction of Juukan Gorge that critics mentioned largely absolved senior administration of blame, will retire earlier than the corporate’s annual assembly in London subsequent month.
It was L’Estrange’s report, and the board’s preliminary resolution to impose solely monetary penalties on the executives accountable for the blasts, that triggered the shareholder backlash.
With Rio run from London however making the majority of its cash in Australia, the corporate is predicted to face strain to nominate an Australian as its subsequent chairman.
“The resignations of Mr Thompson and Michael L’Estrange present a possibility to extend the Australian profile at board stage,” mentioned Ian Silk, chief government of AustralianSuper, the nation’s largest superannuation fund.
Former Centrica boss Sam Laidlaw, one among two impartial Rio administrators main the seek for a brand new chairman, mentioned the board accepted Thompson’s resolution and was grateful he had agreed to offer an essential interval of stability for the miner’s new Danish chief government Jakob Stausholm, who was appointed in January after two years as Rio’s finance director.
Final month, Thompson was accused of breaking a pledge to the normal house owners of Juukan Gorge when Rio changed the performing head of its iron ore enterprise with a everlasting appointment. The corporate later mentioned it ought to have communicated the chief adjustments “in a extra collaborative manner”.
“There isn’t a reasonable prospect of Rio rebuilding relationships, belief and fame whereas these accountable for the degradation of its tradition and social efficiency stay on the board,” mentioned James Fitzgerald of the Australasian Centre for Company Duty.
“The departure of Rio Tinto’s chair, Simon Thompson, and director, Michael L’Estrange, means that the corporate understands this.”
The departures are the newest in a string of adjustments on the high for Rio. Three of its 10-person board — Jennifer Nason, Hinda Gharbi and Ngaire Woods — joined inside the previous 12 months.
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