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Rio Tinto could pull a shock move to end crisis

Shareholders are still fuming even after 3 executives were sacked. But one massive change could bring permanent change to its governance.
The post Rio Tinto could pull a shock move to end crisis appeared first on Motley Fool Australia. –

man placing hand to try to stop falling dominos representing afterpay and sezzle share prices

Rio Tinto Limited (ASX: RIO) might have booted out its CEO and two other senior executives, but critics still hold concerns about its governance.

Shareholder anger over the destruction of Juukan Gorge in May forced the mining giant into Friday’s bloodletting after 3 weeks of defending its processes. 

The Gorge was a location of great historical and cultural value in Western Australia.

ACCR legal counsel James Fitzgerald told The Motley Fool that the sackings were “just the first step”. The chief of superannuation fund HESTA, Debby Blakey, is still calling for an independent review – as is the National Native Title Council.

But what can Rio Tinto tangibly do to fix its culture and satisfy investor fury?

Rio Tinto is considered an Anglo-Australian company, being listed both on the ASX and on the London exchange (Rio Tinto plc (LON: RIO)).

One theory is that, despite the majority of its profits coming out of Australia, the company is dominated by British executives at the highest level.

And those European executives aren’t as sensitive to the destruction of Australian properties considered important to the local population.

Business Council of Australia president Tim Reed had a simple solution to this problem.

“I do think that companies need to be in close contact with the communities that they are a part of and the communities that they serve,” he told Sky News on Sunday.

“If moving the headquarters from London back to Australia enables Rio to do that then given the majority of their activity is here, I think that could be a very positive thing for the company to look towards.”

‘Very regrettable’ situation at Rio Tinto

The Business Council represents some of the largest publicly listed companies in Australia, including Rio Tinto. But Reed was honest about the impact of the mining giant’s actions.

“I think the situation at Rio is very regrettable and let’s not lose sight of the real impact here which is on the local Indigenous communities who forever have lost a deep part of their heritage, and that’s a loss to all of us here in Australia.”

National Native Title Council chief executive Jamie Lowe said Indigenous communities are not anti-development.

“They just want to be able to protect their most significant cultural heritage sites.”

He said reforms were needed in the entire industry, not just Rio Tinto.

“We do fear that if this is the behaviour of a company thought to have sector-leading standards, what is the risk another Juukan Gorge-type incident will happen again, without sector-wide reforms?”

Rio Tinto needed to engage with local communities regardless of where they are in the world, according to Reed.

“They are a global business and it would be just as devastating if something like this were to happen in another country as well.”

Rio Tinto’s share price was up 3.39% in early trading Monday to hit $103.25 at 11.03 am.

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Motley Fool contributor Tony Yoo has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Scott Phillips.

The post Rio Tinto could pull a shock move to end crisis appeared first on Motley Fool Australia.

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