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Ousted Rio Tinto boss in line for up to £32m despite sacred cave demolition

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Rio Tinto’s chief executive Jean-Sebastien Jacques could collect up to £32m of shares after he was forced to quit the mining giant following its disastrous decision to blow up 46,000-year-old sacred caves in Australia in a search for iron ore.

The Anglo-Australian company announced that Mr Jacques is leaving by mutual agreement following an international outcry after it demolished the Juukan Gorge rock shelters, which were regarded as one of the country’s most important archaeological sites.

Mr Jacques is eligible for up to 654,657 shares by the end of 2023 based on various bonus plans detailed in the firm’s annual report.

At today’s closing share price of £49.92, these are worth £32.7m. He is being docked of shares worth about £1m due to the destruction. 

Mr Jacques is also in line for 12 months’ pay and pension benefits worth around £1.5m once he leaves the firm.

A spokesman stressed the bonuses will only pay out if certain performance conditions are met. However, the revelation risks reigniting fury over the company’s actions and perceptions it was slow to respond.

Mr Jacques is due to leave when a replacement has been appointed or on March 31, whichever happens sooner. 

Rio’s iron ore division chief Chris Salisbury and its head of corporate relations Simone Niven, who is responsible for dealing with indigenous communities, will leave the company on Dec 31.

Shareholders had put intense pressure on the board following international outcry over the site’s destruction.

The FTSE 100 miner said: “Significant stakeholders have expressed concerns about executive accountability for the failings identified.”

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