Queensland Alumina Limited Gladstone. Picture: Rodney Stevens DJI Mavic Air 2
Queensland Alumina Limited Gladstone. Picture: Rodney Stevens DJI Mavic Air 2

Global mining giant chairman steps down from board

Global mining company Rio Tinto has announced changes to its board after the current chairman announced he will not seek re-election.

Rio Tinto employs about 3000 people from the Gladstone region at sites including Queensland Alumina Limited, Rio Tinto Yarwun and Boyne Smelters Limited.

The announcement by Simon Thompson follows former CEO Jean-Sébastien Jacques stepping down in September 2020, along with the axing of senior executives in the aftermath of the Juukan Gorge iron ore blasting saga in Western Australia.

Mr Jacques was replaced by the company's former chief financial officer Jakob Stausholm.

Rio Tinto chief executive Jakob Stausholm. Picture: Colin Murty The Australian
Rio Tinto chief executive Jakob Stausholm. Picture: Colin Murty The Australian

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Mr Thompson said he was proud of his seven years on the company's board.

"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 returns," he said.

"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.

"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.

"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.

"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.

"Throughout my seven years on the Rio Tinto Board, I have endeavoured to promote a progressive environmental, social and governance agenda.

"While I am pleased with the progress we have made in many areas, the tragic events at Juukan Gorge are a source of personal sadness and deep regret, as well as being a clear breach of our values as a company."

 

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Queensland Alumina Limited Gladstone. Picture: Rodney Stevens DJI Mavic Air 2
Queensland Alumina Limited Gladstone. Picture: Rodney Stevens DJI Mavic Air 2

 

Rio Tinto has now commenced a search for Mr Thompson's replacement led by Sam Laidlaw, senior independent director of Rio Tinto plc, and Simon McKeon, senior independent director of Rio Tinto Limited.

Mr Thompson is not the only executive stepping down from the board, with non-executive director Michael L'Estrange announcing his retirement.

"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," he said.

"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."

 

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