Rio Tinto Group appointed Jakob Stausholm as chief executive officer to replace Jean-Sebastien Jacques after an investor backlash over the destruction of an ancient Aboriginal site in Australia.
Stausholm, who joined Rio as chief financial officer in 2018, will start his role January 1, the company said in a statement. Jacques will step down the same day and leave Rio on March 31, while 27-year Rio veteran Peter Cunningham has been appointed interim chief financial officer.
Stausholm will need to convince investors, regulators and legislators in Western Australia that Rio can address governance failings in its iron ore unit — the division that accounted for more than 90% of first-half earnings. He will also take on a flagship copper mine expansion in Mongolia that’s been beset by delays and a budget blowout.
In a statement, Stausholm said he was “acutely aware” of the need to restore trust with traditional landowners, adding that he viewed it as a key priority for the company. Previously a low-key figure since his appointment, he was among executives and directors who led meetings with investors, Indigenous leaders and legislators in the aftermath of the Jukkan Gorge blasts.
Rio Chairman Simon Thompson is also under pressure to shake up the board to ensure the views of the Indigenous community are better incorporated into the company’s decision making. Rio, which is headquartered in London, has been criticized for a lack of understanding about community issues in Western Australia.
The departure of Jacques, who joined Rio in 2011 and became CEO in 2016, comes amid wider upheaval in the top ranks of the mining industry, as the sector prepares for a longer-term slowdown in demand from China and navigates moves to decarbonise the global economy.
Top miner BHP Group installed Mike Henry as its CEO in January, 2020, while Glencore Plc’s long-term boss Ivan Glasenberg in December announced plans to retire to be replaced by insider Gary Nagle.
Stausholm previously served as CFO of shipping giant A.P. Moller-Maersk A/S and spent 19 years with Royal Dutch Shell Plc. Alf Barrios, a former oil executive who runs the Rio’s aluminum business, and Bold Baatar, a Mongolian ex-investment banker who leads the energy and minerals unit, had both also been regarded as potential internal successors to Jacques.