Shamed Rio Tinto boss axed in Aboriginal mining scandal

The shamed boss of Rio Tinto could be paid more than £3,000 a day for another year despite being forced out over the destruction of sacred Aboriginal caves. 

Jean-Sebastien Jacques, who has racked up more than £17m in pay and perks during his four years at the helm, was axed yesterday as the mining giant faced a mounting backlash over the scandal. 

But he may not leave until March next year – and could stay on his £1.16m salary for another 12 months. 

Out: Jean-Sebastien Jacques lost his job with the mining giant after protests over Juukan Gorge

Out: Jean-Sebastien Jacques lost his job with the mining giant after protests over Juukan Gorge

Out: Jean-Sebastien Jacques lost his job with the mining giant after protests over Juukan Gorge

And he could collect millions more in long-term bonuses from previous years which have not yet been paid out. 

The French-born British citizen has faced a global backlash – including condemnation from Aboriginal elders and the Church of England, whose pension fund has a small stake in Rio – since the Anglo Australian mining giant blew up two ancient caves in Pilbara, Western Australia, in May. 

The Juukan Gorge rock shelters, which date back around 46,000 years, were cleared away by Rio so it could dig up 8m tonnes of high-grade iron ore worth around £75m that lay beneath. 

The FTSE100 firm has been desperately trying to repair its relations with aboriginal communities, shareholders and politicians – with Australia’s parliament holding an inquiry into its actions. 

This has included slashing payouts for executives, and docking Jacques’ annual bonus, which was worth £1.7m last year. 

But this has not proved enough to mollify its critics. Following a board meeting on Thursday, the miner announced yesterday that Jacques and two other executives – iron ore boss Chris Salisbury and corporate relations head Simone Niven – would step down.

Protest: The FTSE100 firm has been desperately trying to repair its relations with aboriginal communities, shareholders and politicians

Protest: The FTSE100 firm has been desperately trying to repair its relations with aboriginal communities, shareholders and politicians

Protest: The FTSE100 firm has been desperately trying to repair its relations with aboriginal communities, shareholders and politicians

In order to ensure a smooth transition, Jacques will stay on until March 31 next year or until a replacement is found – whichever is earlier. 

Rio Tinto chairman Simon Thompson said: ‘We have listened to our stakeholders’ concerns that a lack of individual account ability undermines the group’s ability to rebuild that trust and to move forward to implement the changes identified in the board review.’ 

Jacques, 48, who receives a basic salary of £1.16m, is contractually entitled to 12 months’ notice. This means he could receive around just under £3,200 a day for another year, even when he is no longer working. Commentators, however, were more focused on the wider impact of their departure. 

Mining industry expert Ben Cleary, a partner at Tribeca Investment Partners, said the clear-out at Rio could bring a halt to or slow down some major mining projects. 

He said: ‘For the chief executive and a couple of senior management to go over an ESG [environmental, social and governance] issue, it’s just going to reverberate through board rooms throughout the sector.’

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