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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People across New England witnessed a dramatic celestial event Sunday night.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By David Reichmuth
Over the last month, I've seen a number of opinion articles attacking electric vehicles (EVs). Sadly, this comes as no surprise: now that the Biden administration is introducing federal policies to accelerate the roll out of electric vehicles, we were bound to see a reaction from those that oppose reducing climate changing emissions and petroleum use.
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On Friday, China set out an economic blueprint for the next five years, which was expected to substantiate the goal set out last fall by President Xi Jinping for the country to reach net-zero emissions before 2060 and hit peak emissions by 2030.
The Great Trail in Canada is recognized as the world's longest recreational trail for hiking, biking, and cross-country skiing. Created by the Trans Canada Trail (TCT) and various partners, The Great Trail consists of a series of smaller, interconnected routes that stretch from St. John's to Vancouver and even into the Yukon and Northwest Territories. It took nearly 25 years to connect the 27,000 kilometers of greenway in ways that were safe and accessible to hikers. Now, thanks to a new partnership with the Canadian Paralympic Committee and AccessNow, the TCT is increasing accessibility throughout The Great Trail for people with disabilities.
Trans Canada Trail and AccessNow partnership for AccessOutdoors / Trails for All project. Mapping day at Stanley Park Seawall in Vancouver, British Columbia with Richard Peter. Alexa Fernando<p>This partnership also comes at a time when access to outdoor recreation is more important to Canadian citizens than ever. <a href="https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/200527/dq200527b-eng.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Studies from the spring of 2020</a> indicate that Canadian's <a href="https://www.bnnbloomberg.ca/moneytalk-mental-health-during-covid-19-1.1567633" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">mental health has worsened</a> since the onset of social distancing protocols due to COVID-19. </p><p>The <a href="https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/in-depth/safe-activities-during-covid19/art-20489385" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mayo Clinic</a> lists hiking, biking, and skiing as safe activities during COVID-19. Their website explains, "When you're outside, fresh air is constantly moving, dispersing these droplets. So you're less likely to breathe in enough of the respiratory droplets containing the virus that causes COVID-19 to become infected."</p><p>TCT leadership took this into consideration when embarking on the accessibility project. McMahon explains that there has never been a more important time to bring accessibility to the great outdoors: "Canadians have told us that during these difficult times, they value access to natural spaces to stay active, take care of their mental health, and socially connect with others while respecting physical distancing and public health directives. This partnership is incredibly important especially now as trails have become a lifeline for Canadians."</p><p>Together, these organizations are paving the way for better physical and mental health among all Canadians. To learn more about the TCT's mission and initiatives, check out their <a href="https://thegreattrail.ca/stories/" target="_blank">trail stories</a> and <a href="https://thegreattrail.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/TCT_2020-Donor-Impact-Report_EN_8.5x14-web.pdf" target="_blank">2020 Impact Report</a>.</p>