Rio Tinto chief executive Jean-Sebastien Jacques will leave the company by the end of March.
CEO and two senior executives will depart the company after an investor revolt over the destruction of the ancient Juukan Gorge rock shelters.
Rio Tinto’s decision to destroy the two culturally significant rock shelters in Western Australia’s Pilbara region, which had evidence of continual human occupation tracing back at least 46,000 years.
Mr Jacques, Mr Salisbury and Ms Niven whose department oversees community relations were last month stripped of $7 million of their 2020 bonuses after a board-led review found they had to bear some responsibility.
In a statement issued on Friday morning, the board said Mr Jacques, 48, would stay as chief executive until the appointment of his successor or until March 31, whichever was earlier.
The decision comes after months of escalating pressure from Aboriginal groups, top shareholders and government leaders over Rio Tinto’s decision to destroy the two culturally significant rock shelters in Western Australia’s Pilbara region, which had evidence of continual human occupation tracing back at least 46,000 years.
Ancient artefacts unearthed at the Juukan Gorge shelters – including grinding and pounding stones, a 28,000-year-old marsupial bone sharpened into a tool and a 4000-year-old belt made of plaited human hair with DNA linking it directly to today’s PKKP people – had placed the caves among the most significant archaeological research sites in Australia.
The loss of the site has highlighted the power imbalance between Australia’s mining industry and traditional owners and raises questions now being considered by a federal parliamentary inquiry about the need for stronger legal protections for traditional owners to safeguard heritage sites on their ancestral land.
Rio Tinto insiders have laid blame squarely on the leadership of Mr Jacques, who made sweeping changes to the structure of the miner’s Aboriginal relations functions when he became chief executive in 2016. Bruce Harvey, who led Rio Tinto’s global community and Indigenous relations, and Glynn Cochrane, a senior adviser, said Mr Jacques’ organisational overhaul diluted the roles of mine site leaders, anthropologists and archaeologists in community relations. Media agencies