The Rio Tinto chief executive broke down in tears as he apologized to two whistleblowers who had spent years raising concerns about misconduct at the company, according to a report seen by the Mail.
Jakob Stausholm, who has run the company since 2021, reportedly said that no one “ever deserves” to be victimized and “financially ruined” in the way that Dr. Maurice Duffy, a longtime company consultant, and the manager of Richard Bowley project were for the FTSE 100 miner.
The leaked document makes a series of damning allegations about irregular payments, corruption and harassment in Rio over several years.
The company has previously been accused of having a toxic culture, which is a concern for pension funds and major investors who want to make sure their money goes to ethical firms.
Report: Rio Chief Executive Jakob Stausholm (pictured) said no one deserves to be victimized and ‘financially ruined’ the way Dr. Maurice Duffy and Richard Bowley were
Stausholm was hired to clean up Rio after two 46,000-year-old sacred sites in Western Australia blew up to expand an iron ore mine.
This sparked global outrage and an Australian parliamentary inquiry, as well as a boardroom cleanup that saw former boss Jean-Sebastien Jacques and two other executives leave.
As Stausholm tried to salvage the company’s reputation, he commissioned an external review of Rio Tinto’s culture in 2021, led by Australia’s sex discrimination commissioner Elizabeth Broderick.
It unearthed ‘disturbing’ findings of bullying, sexual harassment, racism and rape.
But the report seen by the Mail detailing the whistleblowers’ claims contains a number of separate allegations. It’s called Bad Minds Make Bad Miners.
As part of his broader reconciliation efforts, Stausholm last year invited whistleblowers Duffy and Bowley to meet him at Rio’s headquarters in London.
Between 2017 and 2022, the couple had been ‘escalating issues of serious ethical concern to Rio Tinto’s board, executive leadership and legal officers, including the chairman of the board, chief executive officer, head of legal affairs, chief of human resources, the head of ethics, and the secretary of the company’.
The document says Duffy, 66, who has trained Rio Tinto executives for more than a decade, believes the company tried to “destroy” his reputation after he cut ties with it in 2017.
It alleges he resigned for a number of reasons, including misreporting at its sprawling Oyu Tolgoi copper mine in Mongolia that went ignored, while irregular payments, as well as allegations of intimidation and sexism went uninvestigated.
He said Bowley, 53, who worked on the Oyu Tolgoi project, was also concerned about delays and other problems at the site that he pointed out but were ignored.
Duffy, the report says, also oversaw Jacques’ training early in his career and concluded that he was “a psychopath.”
The report was sent to the Mongolian authorities earlier this year.
At Rio’s London office last summer, Stausholm is said to have “apologized to Richard Bowley and Maurice Duffy for the mental, financial and reputational pain the company has caused them” during Jacques’ tenure.
At one point Stausholm is understood to have “shed a tear” after hearing his experiences, with the chief executive describing the years they had spent fighting the company under Jacques as the “darkest period in Rio Tinto’s 150-year history”. .
Delays: Rio said last year that its Oyu Tolgoi project in the Gobi desert was running around 15 months behind schedule and would incur additional costs.
Both Duffy and Bowley had previously written to Stausholm “about their concern about the many ethical breaches they had witnessed,” the report says.
At a second meeting in August, Stausholm is quoted as saying, “No employee deserves to be victimized to the extent that [both Bowley and Duffy] They were, and no one deserves to be financially ruined, their career over, to tell the truth.’
The company’s human resources chief, James Martin, has also apologized for the “mental, financial and reputational damage” done to Duffy.
Martin supposedly offered Duffy more work with Rio, but he turned this offer down.
The miner said last year that its Oyu Tolgoi project in the Gobi desert was running around 15 months behind schedule and would incur additional costs.
He said these were due to ‘geotechnical’ problems. The copper mine is the largest single foreign investment in Mongolia.
Last year, Rio agreed to buy the company that controlled Oyu Tolgoi, Canadian group Turquoise Hill, for £2.6bn.
Duffy confirmed to the Mail that he and Bowley had contributed to a confidential regulatory report that was submitted to Mongolian authorities earlier this year.
A Rio Tinto spokesperson said: “We have made a clear and public commitment to make lasting changes to strengthen our workplace culture and, as part of this, continue to encourage current or former employees and contractors with concerns to raise them”.
“All of the recommendations from the comprehensive external review that we commissioned from Australia’s former sex discrimination commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick, are being implemented.
“This is a multi-year journey, and our management team devotes a great deal of personal energy.”
Referring to the Bad Minds Make Bad Miners report, a spokesperson added: ‘Rio Tinto has not seen a copy of the report.
‘Rio Tinto has complied with all disclosure obligations.
“Many of these claims are subject to ongoing litigation and are without merit.”
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