Thompson, who has chaired the company since 2018, has told Rio Tinto’s board that he will not seek re-election in 2022, according to the company.
“As Chairman, I am ultimately accountable for the failings that led to this tragic event,” Thompson said in a statement. “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.”
Thompson’s announcement comes nearly a year after Rio Tinto, the world’s second largest mining company, blew up the Juukan Gorge caves in Western Australia to expand an iron ore mine.
The local custodians of the land, the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people, had been fighting for years to protect the caves, and their destruction was met with outrage. The caves had significant archeological value and deep cultural meaning for Aboriginal people.
Two other executives — Chris Salisbury, head of the iron ore business, and Simone Niven, group executive for corporate relations — also left the company in the wake of the incident.
Thompson said in his statement Wednesday that the company has engaged with investors, the government and Indigenous communities to learn from the demolition of the caves.
The board said it has accepted Thompson’s decision and will search for a successor.
Rio Tinto’s chairman to step down in latest shakeup following Indigenous cave destruction