The man responsible for overseeing a study of the Juukan Gorge tragedy in Rio Tinto has been reported to have received an immense pay raise.
Last year, ignoring warnings about the cultural significance of the site to Indigenous Australians, the company blasted 46,000-year-old rock shelters in Western Australia’s Pilbara area.
Rio Tinto released its annual report yesterday.
The remuneration portion of the study reveals that the man who headed the internal investigation into the tragedy, Michael L’Estrange, was charged an additional 46 percent for his contributions on top of his annual director’s fees.
His director fees for 2020 ultimately totalled $US227,000 ($288,386).
According to Thomas Clarke, who specialises in management and corporate governance, the way the Juukan Cave blast was handled was a corporate tragedy.
“As a director, he shouldn’t have been doing the job in the first place, but attaching a big fee to it wasn’t really very appropriate either,” he told the ABC’s PM program.
“A disgraceful occurrence that no corporation should ever have allowed to occur.”
Labor Senator Pat Dodson, a member of the Joint Parliamentary Committee who also looked at the issue, said in December last year that the destruction of the caves was one of the “that has ever happened in our country”
Professor Clarke said that for Indigenous Australians, the pay increase would rub salt into the wound.
“Really, having a board member doing the inquiry wasn’t appropriate at all,” he said.
“It should have been an independent, external person who did this inquiry.
He said the investigation was conducted internally so that “manage the outcome” by the miner.
Independent mining analyst Mark Pervan said that, after the fiasco, no director should have received a single extra point.
“They realised the damage had been done,” Mr Pervan said.
“There is clearly an opportunity here to show they are serious about amending that and I think that could have been done through a zero-remuneration adjustment or putting the hard work in and hoping they can restore the reputation and trust with the community.”