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Rio Tinto is tremendous, says new chief executive

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Apparently, according to its latest press release, the primary goal of Rio Tinto PLC (LON:RIO) is “to produce the materials essential to human progress” and not to blow up sacred aboriginal burial sites after all.


It’s perhaps in light of this change of strategy that the company has relieved itself of its old chief executive, Jean-Sebastian Jacques, the man who oversaw the destruction by explosive of the aboriginal heritage sites in Juukan Gorge in Western Australia.


His replacement has been announced today, and as was perhaps politic, Jakob Stausholm is a dour accountant rather than a charismatic leader. Rio Tinto is not yet ready to be led to salvation – it still has more penance to do.


From the point of view of a skeptical world – and in this particular case that includes the market too – Stausholm’s long track record in providing accountancy to companies outside of the mining sector is a good thing.


A negative is that he was on the board at the time Rio Tinto embarked on the explosive destruction of its own reputation, well ensconced by that stage as chief financial officer.


So, it’s a mixed picture, but a company that for a while seemed almost unable to comprehend the enormity of its public relations disaster does at least now seem keen to move on.


Don’t forget that the head of iron ore, Chris Salisbury, and the head of corporate relations, Simone Niven, have also stepped down.


There has, to a degree, been a changing of the guard.


The company’s new aspiration as an enabler for things that are “essential to human progress” may leave it with a lot to live up to, but from where it’s sitting, the only way is up anyway.


So why not reach for the moon?


After all, from a business point of view, everything’s rosy. The shares are at their highest level since 2008, Chinese demand for iron ore is booming, and other commodities have bounced in response to multiple stimulus packages and the gradual re-opening of parts of the global economy.


Thank goodness someone’s doing well in this coronavirus mess, right?


After all, Rio Tinto is, as new chief Stausholm says, “tremendous.”

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