Rio Tinto urged to hire Australian Chief Executive after 46,000-year-old Aboriginal cave destroyed
Australian politicians are pushing Rio Tinto to appoint someone from the country as the next chief executive after the destruction of a 46,000-year-old Aboriginal site sparked a major backlash.
Jean-Sebastien Jacques was forced to shut down last week following a response after the mining group blew up ancient caves in Pilbara, Western Australia, earlier this year.
The French-born British citizen, 48, will step down at the end of March next year, or whenever a replacement is found – whichever is earlier.
Rio Tinto boss Jean-Sebastien Jacques was forced to quit last week following a response after the miner blew up ancient caves in Pilbara, Western Australia (pictured) earlier this year.
But the Australian Treasury is urging Rio to appoint an Australian to run the Anglo-Australian company.
Although headquartered in London, the mining group generates most of its revenue in Australia, which has massive iron ore deposits.
Australian Treasury Secretary Josh Frydenberg said: “Rio Tinto is one of the largest companies in the world with a proud Australian history.
“Since the vast majority of his income comes from Australia, it is fitting to see an Australian once again as CEO along with the majority of the board.”
Frydenberg added that he had a “constructive discussion” about this with Rio Chairman Simon Thompson.
The Australian government is pushing for stricter rules on foreign investment and protection of strategic industries amid concerns about the souring relations with China and the impact of Covid-19.
But Rio has also come under pressure from Australian politicians for underestimating the cultural heritage of the iron-ore-rich Pilbara region, where it generates 90 percent of its revenue.
Jacques told a parliamentary inquiry into the Juukan Gorge blast that he was unaware of the cultural significance of the rock shelters until they were blown up on May 24.
Ben Wyatt, treasurer of the Western Australian state government, told Australian media, “There is no one on that board with any understanding of the Aboriginal groups who own the land in which they operate.
“That screams risk to me, and it’s something I’m baffled about, that I haven’t noticed over the years.”
Possible Australian candidates include Anglo-American boss Mark Cutifani and Sandeep Biswas, the boss of Newcrest Mining.