Rio Tinto's chairman has resigned after mounting shareholder pressure over the mining giant destroying sacred Indigenous caves last year in Western Australia.
In a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange today, chair Simon Thompson announced he would step down from the board and not seek re-election at its 2022 annual general meeting.
"[Rio Tinto's] successes were overshadowed by the destruction of the Juukan Gorge rock shelters at the Brockman 4 operations in Australia and, as chairman, I am ultimately accountable for the failings that led to this tragic event," Thompson said in statement.
"Throughout my seven years on the Rio Tinto board, I have endeavoured to promote a progressive environmental, social and governance agenda.
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"While I am pleased with the progress we have made in many areas, the tragic events at Juukan Gorge are a source of personal sadness and deep regret, as well as being a clear breach of our values as a company."
Directors Sam Laidlaw and Simon McKeon will spearhead the search for a new chair.
The cave blasts have already prompted an overhaul of the company's senior management, with former chief executive J S Jacques falling on his sword last year.
An inquiry into the destruction of the 46,000-year-old heritage sites heard the incident caused significant trauma to local communities and that the miner never properly consulted Aboriginal people.
The Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura (PKKP) group was angered when Rio Tinto did not consult them about significant management and board changes in January.
The global company has also been scrutinised by community groups and shareholders for not having enough Australian representation on the board or senior management, despite the bulk of its operations occurring in the southern hemisphere.
Non-executive director Michael L'Estrange has also announced he will retire from the board after the 2021 annual general meeting.