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Mining giant reveals new boss after Indigenous land explosion

Jakob Stausholm
Jakob Stausholm

A multinational resources company has promoted a top decision-maker to chief executive after his predecessor was axed for blowing up two ancient rock shelters as part of a metal mine expansion.

Jakob Stausholm will become Rio Tinto’s next CEO, following the controversial departures of predecessor Jean-Sebastien Jacques, iron ore chief executive Chris Salisbury, and corporate relations group executive Simone Niven.

Salary tops $6M

Since joining Rio as chief financial officer in 2018 Stausholm has already earned acclaim for strengthening the balance sheet, taking a disciplined approach to spending, and managing company finances.

He will start the new job at the beginning of January 2021 and be paid a base salary of £1.15 million (A$2M) with potential to triple that amount in bonuses, depending on his work performance.

“I am pleased to announce the appointment of Jakob as chief executive,” Rio Tinto chairman Simon Thompson said in a public statement.

“His blend of strategic and commercial expertise, strong values and a collaborative leadership style are the ideal qualities for our next chief executive.”

Rebuilding relationships

Stausholm promised to rebuild the company’s relationship with Indigenous Australians, particularly the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura People (PKKP) who strongly criticised Rio’s May 24 controlled explosion at Juukan Gorge. The blast allegedly destroyed artefacts inside the shelters estimated to be up to 46,000-years-old like grinding stones, a bone sharpened into a tool and braided hair.

The work was intended to excavate the first mine pit as part of the Brockman 4 Iron Ore Expansion, 55km northwest of Tom Price. Rio had already met the regulatory requirements back in 2013. Rio profusely apologised for any distress caused to the PKKP but superannuation investors continued to demand Jacques’ resignation until they finally succeeded.

“I look forward to leading Rio Tinto and working with my colleagues across the business to ensure that we maintain strong safety, operational and financial performance, while progressing our growth, sustainability and technology strategies,” Stausholm said.

“I am also acutely aware of the need to restore trust with traditional owners and our other stakeholders, which I view as a key priority for the company.”

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