Rio Tinto's ousted boss received £1.4m pay rise despite Australian disaster

LaToya Harding
·2-min read
Jean-Sebastien Jacques, former CEO of Rio Tinto Group. Photo: Hannah McKay/Reuters
Jean-Sebastien Jacques, former CEO of Rio Tinto Group. Photo: Hannah McKay/Reuters

Jean-Sebastien Jacques​, Rio Tinto’s (RIO.L) ousted boss, pocketed a £1.4m ($1.96m) pay rise last year despite the Juukan Gorge site disaster that led to his resignation.

He took home a total pay of just over £7.2m, according to the company’s annual report on Monday, which included his salary of £1.16m and share awards worth £5.7m.

The pay rise was a 20% increase compared with the £5.8m he received the year before. However, Jacques did not receive his short-term bonus and £1m worth of long-term share awards.

It comes after he was forced to leave the company after the miner blew up sacred Aboriginal caves in Australia as it searched for iron ore.

Prior to the event, the company was told that the 46,000-year old rock shelters were of the highest archaeological significance.

The former boss is now on gardening leave on his usual salary and benefits until the end of March, and is eligible to receive payments in lieu of notice.

Two other senior executives also left the company after its board bowed to intense scrutiny for action.

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Sam Laidlaw, chair of the remuneration committee, said the board “fully recognised the gravity of the destruction at Juukan Gorge but was mindful that the three executives did not deliberately cause the events to happen, they did not do anything unlawful, nor did they engage in fraudulent or dishonest behaviour or wilfully neglect their duties.”

Simon Thompson, who remained chairman throughout the scandal, said: “Our strong performance during 2020 was overshadowed by the destruction of the ancient rock shelters in the Juukan Gorge and I reiterate our unreserved apology to the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people.

“We fell far short of our values as a company and breached the trust placed in us. It is our responsibility to ensure that the destruction of a site of such exceptional cultural significance never happens again.”

Last week, Rio Tinto announced a record $9bn (£6.4bn) in dividends for 2020.

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