Mining Company CEO Forced to Resign After Blasting of 46,000-Year-Old Aboriginal Site
The chief executive officer and two senior executives are being forced out of the mining giant Rio Tinto several months after investors started to revolt over the company's destruction of an ancient aboriginal rock shelter, according to CNN.
CEO Jean-Sebastian Jacques will leave in March 2021, while two senior executives, Chris Salisbury, iron ore chief executive, and Simone Nieven, head of corporate relations who had the responsibility of handling relations with Indigenous communities, will leave at the end of 2020, according to Forbes.
The 48-year-old chief executive is being forced out after investors listened to a continuing outcry from the Indigenous people of Australia who were horrified that Rio Tinto would trounce upon their sacred ground and blast away the ancient Juukan Gorge rock shelters, two culturally significant rock shelters in Western Australia's Pilbara region. Despite knowing the importance of the grounds to the the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people, Rio Tinto blasted the site in order to mine a better quality of iron ore, according to The Guardian.
The company's board responded to the move by cutting executive pay and stripping the three executives of $7 million in bonuses, but investors lined up to denounce that penalty as inadequate.
"There were certainly some shareholders who felt strongly that the accountability was inappropriate and that this was an issue that needed to be addressed to rebuild trust," said Rio Tinto Chairman Simon Thompson to The Sydney Morning Herald.
"While there is general recognition of the transparency of the board review and support for the changes recommended, significant stakeholders have expressed concerns about executive accountability for the failings identified," the company said in a statement, as The Guardian reported.
The wanton destruction of the site has shed light on the remarkable power the mining industry has over sacred, traditional lands. It has shown the need for greater legal guarantees to make sure heritage sites are protected.
A spokesperson for the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people told The Sydney Morning Herald, "Our focus continues to rest heavily on preserving Aboriginal heritage and advocating for wide-ranging changes to ensure a tragedy like this never happens again. We cannot and will not allow this type of devastation to occur ever again."
Among the prominent shareholders to express their misgivings were several large Australian investment funds and a group of 81 British pension funds. Also, the National Native Title Council in Australia said the board was divorced from reality in thinking that the pay cuts were somehow just punishment for destroying a 46,000-year-old site, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.
"There is more work to be done," said Jamie Lowe, chief executive for the National Native Title Council, as The Guardian reported. "The law needs to be strengthened. We can't rely on the goodwill of mining companies, we need the law strengthened. We can't rely on their word that things will get better."
"What happened at Juukan was wrong," Thompson said Friday to The Sydney Morning Herald. "We are determined to ensure the destruction of a heritage site of such exceptional archaeological and cultural significance never occurs again at a Rio Tinto operation."
Ian Silk, the chief executive of Australia's biggest superannuation fund, AustralianSuper, said that he was "satisfied that appropriate responsibility has now been taken by executives at Rio Tinto," according to The Guardian,
"Rio can now work with traditional owners to guarantee that its processes are appropriate for the protection of culturally important sites and that it has the right internal accountabilities," he added, as The Guardian reported.
Additionally, the Australian Center for Corporate Responsibility applauded Friday's announcement as an end to the "dishonest malaise of Rio Tinto's board and senior management," according to The Guardian.
While the news of the executives departing is welcome, the institutional investors who have the clout to spur action within the company said the company would have to take steps to repair its relationship with Australia's Indigenous people.
"Rio Tinto now has the opportunity to address the necessary remediation, cultural heritage and risk processes with fresh eyes," said Louise Davidson, chief executive of the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors, which advises 38 large super funds on governance issues, to The Guardian.
"Rio Tinto must prioritise working with traditional owners the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people to rebuild their relationship. It is critical that this is not delayed," she added.
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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