The Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ACCR) has welcomed the exit of Rio CEO, Jean-Sébastien Jacques, head of Corporate Relations Simone Niven and Head of Iron Ore Chris Salisbury, but remains concerned at the lack of cultural understanding displayed by the company and its board — specifically in the length of time it took to address this destruction of heritage.
Commenting on the exit, James Fitzgerald, Legal Counsel/Strategy Lead at ACCR said:
“There are in fact two disasters: The first involves the tragic destruction of Juukan Gorge in May; the second is the dishonest malaise of Rio Tinto’s board and senior management in the months since.
“The first cannot be undone. The damage is irreparable. We will need to hear from the PKKP people as to whether they are satisfied with any reparations Rio Tinto has offered.
“On the second: the behaviour of the Board and senior management is reminiscent of the arrogant ignorance that led to Rio Tinto’s withdrawal from Bougainville in 1989.
“Investors have stepped up in this instance and demonstrated that they will not accept corporate misinformation and the absolute disrespect to cultural sites that has become Rio’s modus operandi.
“Shareholder democracy and investor action is alive and well in Australia. Corporate captains may think twice before attempting to mislead investors, not to mention a Parliamentary Inquiry, in future.
“This is just the first step on a long path towards restoring Rio Tinto’s good practice and reputation in its relationships with Indigenous peoples. The company’s conscientious but beleaguered Communities staff deserve to be supported and encouraged in their important work.
“The removal of these three executives is just the first step.”