Rio Tinto chairman Simon Thompson steps down
(Kitco News) - Rio Tinto chairman Simon Thompson has announced his intention to step down from his role due to the destruction of the Juukan Gorge rock shelters in Western Australia. Last year, Rio destroyed two 46,000-year-old caves in the Pilbara region against the wishes of the traditional owners.
Thompson said he is accountable for what led to the destruction of Juukan Gorge, as the company looks to repair its trust with traditional owners. He said, "I am proud of Rio Tinto's achievements in 2020, including our outstanding response to the COVID-19 pandemic, a second successive fatality-free year, significant progress with our climate change strategy, and strong shareholder return,".
He then added, "However, these successes were overshadowed by the destruction of the Juukan Gorge rock shelters at the Brockman 4 operations in Australia and, as chairman, I am ultimately accountable for the failings that led to this tragic event."
Thompson will not seek re-election as a non-executive director after the conclusion of the 2021 annual general meetings. The appointment of Rio Tinto chief executive Jakob Stausholm is part of the company's "decisive action" across its risk management and governance to avoid a repeat of Juukan Gorge. "In January, we appointed a new chief executive, Jakob Stausholm, who has moved swiftly to appoint his new executive team and has identified his key priorities to rebuild the trust that we have lost," Thompson said.
Adding to this, Rio Tinto non-executive director Michael L'Estrange has also announced his retirement at the end of the 2021 AGMs. He said "It has been an honour to have had the opportunity to serve on the Rio Tinto board for what will be six and a half years," and added, "I wish Jakob and the new executive well for the future as they build on Rio Tinto's many strengths and continue to implement the critical changes aimed at ensuring that an occurrence such as the destruction of the Juukan Gorge rock shelters never happens again.".