- Rio Tinto (RIO) Chairman Simon Thompson is planning to step down as tremors from the destruction of Juukan Gorge continue to shake one of the world's largest miners
- While Thomson will seek re-election to the board this year, he has already flagged plans to step down in 2022
- Thomson is now the fourth major Rio figure poised to leave following widespread public outcry over the destruction of Juukan Gorge in WA's Pilbara region
- Meanwhile, an effort by Rio Tinto and BHP to open a copper mine in Arizona, U.S., has hit a roadblock
- Previously, the U.S. Forest Service approved a transfer of the 980-hectare landholding to Resolution Copper — a joint venture led by the Australian miners
- Now under a Joe Biden presidency, the land transfer has been reversed, fuelled by a protest for the conservation of Apache land
- Resolution Copper claims the mine could meet a quarter of America's copper needs over 40 years
- Shares in Rio Tinto are up 1.69 per cent and trading at $129.30 per share, while BHP is up 2.77 per cent and trading at $50.48 per share
Rio Tinto (RIO) Chairman Simon Thompson is planning to step down as tremors from the destruction of Juukan Gorge continue to shake one of the world's largest miners.
While Thomson will seek re-election this year, he has already flagged plans to step down in 2022.
Thomson is now the fourth major Rio figure poised to leave over the Juukan Gorge controversy following former CEO Jean-Sebastien Jacques and executives Simone Niven and Chris Salisbury.
Ahead of his departure, senior independent directors Sam Laidlaw and Simon McKeon will begin the hunt for Thomson's replacement.
Thomson spoke fondly of his time at Rio Tinto but did not skirt from the controversy surrounding his decision to step down.
“Throughout my seven years on the Rio Tinto board, I have endeavoured to promote a progressive environmental, social and governance agenda. 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,” he said.
Meanwhile, another bout of public outrage is threatening to scarper the company's plans — this time in the U.S.
Rio Tinto and fellow ASX-big-hitter BHP (BHP) had been bankrolling plans for a copper mine in Arizona, but a reversal by the government has put it on pause.
The two Australian companies were planning to build a copper mine in Arizona's Oak Flat area.
The U.S. Forest Service originally OK'd a transfer of the 980-hectare landholding to Resolution Copper — a mining venture owned in majority by Rio, partnered with BHP.
However, now under a new presidency, The Forest Service has reversed this decision and is carrying out a "thorough review".
The reversal was co-opted with the American Department of Agriculture. The original decision was made in early January after an environmental impact statement was made — just days before Joe Biden won the election.
"In the meantime, we will continue to engage in the process determined by the US government and are committed to ongoing consultation with Native American Tribes and local communities," Resolution Copper said in a statement.
A push to block the land transfer was fuelled by protests led by the San Carlos Apache Tribe. The tribe is particularly focused on the religious land, which they call "Chi'chil Bildagoteel".
Resolution Copper says the mine, if come to fruition, could supply a quarter of America's copper for 40 years.
"The Resolution copper mine project will desecrate Chich’il Bildagoteel, also known as Oak Flat, which is the heart of our religious and cultural beliefs," San Carlos Apache Chairman, Terry Rambler, said.
"U.S. Forest Service failed to follow the law in the preparation of a sham final environmental impact statement that was used to justify trading away our sacred land to wealthy foreign mining companies," he said.
Shares in Rio Tinto are up 1.69 per cent and trading at $129.30 per share. Meanwhile, Shares in BHP are up 2.77 per cent and trading at $50.48 per share at 10:44 am AEDT.