Rio Tinto names Jakob Stausholm as new CEO, pledges to ‘restore confidence’

On Thursday, the mining giant announced Chief Financial Officer Jakob Stausholm as Chief Executive. Stausholm will take office on January 1, the same day that Chief Jean-Sébastien Jacques is slated to retire.

Jacques resigned under investor pressure in September over the company’s destruction of a 46,000-year-old sacred Aboriginal site in Australia. He demolished the Juukan Gorge caves in Western Australia in May to expand an iron ore mine.

The decision to blow up the site had gone against a seven-year battle with local land guards, the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people, to protect it.

Rio Tinto apologized for what happened, with its chairman Simon Thompson admitting: “What Juukan did was wrong.”

The company also cut bonuses for Jacques and two other senior executives, totaling £ 3.8 million ($ 5 million).

But he did not immediately fire activists, which led to further backlash.

Rio Tinto was accused by investment agencies of not taking full responsibility for the demolition of the caves, which had important archaeological value and deep cultural significance for the Native Americans. In both rock shelters, for example, artefacts showed tens of thousands of years of human habitation.

Some politicians have since called for a reshuffle.

Last week, an inquiry panel from the North Australian Joint Standing Committee found that Rio Tinto should pay compensation to Indigenous Australians. He described the destruction of the caves as “inexcusable,” but did not specify a suggested amount.

UBS analysts noted that the government’s report was not government policy, writing in a research note Wednesday that “unilateral action is not likely.” They added, however, that Rio Tinto was “likely to pay compensation” for what happened.

In a statement Thursday, Stausholm acknowledged the challenge ahead, acknowledging “the difficult times ahead in 2020.”

“I am also acutely aware of the need to restore trust with Traditional Owners and our other stakeholders, which I see as a key priority for the company,” said the incoming Chief Executive. in, referring to the local keepers of the land.

Rio stock in London rose 1.9% on Thursday following the news. Shortly before the news, its shares in Sydney had closed 1.8%.

Angus Watson, Laura He and Sandi Sidhu contributed to this report.

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