Friday briefing: Rio Tinto CEO quits after cave furore

Friday briefing: Rio Tinto CEO quits after cave furore

Juukan Gorge rock shelters in Western Australia before they were destroyed by iron ore mining.
Photograph: PKKP Aboriginal Corporation/AFP/Getty Images

Anglo-Australian miner blew up ancient Aboriginal site … Sacoolas lawyers say she drove on wrong side … Covid rule-followers ‘hate’ rule-breakers


Main image:
Juukan Gorge rock shelters in Western Australia before they were destroyed by iron ore mining.
Photograph: PKKP Aboriginal Corporation/AFP/Getty Images

Top story: Jean-Sébastien Jacques to leave ‘by mutual agreement’

Hello, Warren Murray with news picked for you by these very hands (sanitised of course).

The Rio Tinto chief executive, Jean-Sébastien Jacques, and two other senior executives have resigned after intense investor pressure over the mining company having blown up 46,000-year-old rock shelters at Juukan Gorge in Western Australia. The Church of England’s pension board, which manages more than £2.8bn ($AU5bn) in retirement savings, was among groups that poured pressure on the board of Rio Tinto to take action against its chief executive over the debacle.

The Anglo-Australian mining company said Jacques was leaving “by mutual agreement” with the board, while its iron ore head, Chris Salisbury, and corporate affairs boss, Simone Niven, would also depart. Rio Tinto blew up the rock shelters, which were extremely significant to the area’s traditional owners, the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people, in May so that it could mine more iron ore and despite knowing for years of their importance.

Sacoolas drove on wrong side – Lawyers for Anne Sacoolas have said the American “instinctively” drove on the “wrong side of the road for 20 seconds” before the fatal crash in which Harry Dunn was killed. The 43-year-old has issued a public statement saying she flagged down help, called for police and stayed to help at the scene. The motorcyclist was killed in the crash last year outside RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire where Sacoolas’s husband worked for US intelligence. US authorities asserted Sacoolas had diplomatic immunity and, according to her lawyers, “[the US embassy] informed the Foreign Office of this decision and instructed Anne to return home”. Dunn’s parents said they noted the statement but “once again they invite her to do the right thing and return to the UK to answer to the charges laid against her”. Dunn’s family have filed a US lawsuit against Sacoolas.

Row rages over internal markets – A rift has emerged between the government’s top legal advisers over the legislation to override the EU withdrawal agreement. Their advice, seen by the Guardian, appears to show that Richard Keen, the advocate general for Scotland, advised ministers would be breaching the ministerial code if they defied international law. The attorney general, Suella Braverman, and solicitor general, Michael Ellis, disagreed, though the letter states that all three agreed the internal market bill would amount to a “clear breach” of the withdrawal agreement and international law. Brexit talks appear to be on the point of collapse after Britain flatly rejected an EU ultimatum to back down within three weeks or face sanctions. The committee stage of the bill is scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday after the second reading on Monday. It may face a battle in the Lords where senior Tories have been vocal in their dissent.

Plight of Moria refugees – Plumes of smoke rise above the ashes and twisted metal – all that remains of Europe’s largest refugee camp, Moria on Lesbos, which was home to thousands of children and their families before devastating fires this week.

Refugees on the roadside after fires destroyed Moria camp on the island of Lesbos.

Refugees on the roadside after fires destroyed Moria camp on the island of Lesbos. Photograph: Miloš Bičanski/Getty Images

Across the island the fire has caused anger, indignation and despair, and divided the community on what should come next. Some local people express solidarity with the refugees but many hope that the camp will not be rebuilt. The mayor of Mytilene, the capital of Lesbos, Stratis Kytelis, is among those opposing a new camp and told local media that he will not accept any reopening of Moria. Refugees at the smaller Kara Tepe camp nearby have been sharing food and offering consolation but for now the thousands who fled Moria have nowhere to go.

Anger behind the mask – Lockdown rules and mask-wearing are causing deeper social fractures than Brexit, a poll of 10,000 people has found. The masked (58%) have severely negative attitudes towards the non-masked, and the majority (68%) of people who obey lockdown rules feeling strongly negative views towards those who break them. Significant minorities of people who stick to rules say they “hate” or “resent” people who do not, says the Demos thinktank. Hotels and restaurants have been hit by a wave of cancellations as new coronavirus restrictions throw Christmas celebrations into doubt. The festive season is when many retailers bank the lion’s share of their annual profits, while socialising in the run-up to Christmas and new year brings Britain’s pubs, restaurants and hotels up to 40% of their annual profits. Head to our global coronavirus live blog for further developments.

US reels amid wildfires – More than 500,000 people in Oregon, amounting to more than 10% of the population, have been forced to evacuate as unprecedented wildfires rage across the state. Overnight the president, Donald Trump, made an emergency declaration approving federal assistance. Wildfires in the American west have killed at least 15 people and levelled entire neighbourhoods. In Oregon fire conditions not seen in three decades have fuelled huge blazes that have killed at least three people and destroyed at least five towns. In Washington state a one-year-old boy died after his family was apparently overrun by flames trying to flee a wildfire; while in northern California’s Butte county at least 10 people have died and 16 are missing.

A woman at top of Wall St – Citigroup has appointed the Scottish-American banker Jane Fraser as its next chief executive, the first time a big Wall Street bank will be led by a woman. Fraser, who has worked there for 16 years, will take over from Michael Corbat in February. Fraser was born in Scotland and studied economics at Cambridge and Harvard before working at Goldman Sachs in London followed by other roles across the world. Citigroup is one of the world’s biggest banks, with assets worth more than $2.2tn (£1.7tn) on its balance sheet at the end of June.

Today in Focus podcast: Alastair Campbell and depression

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Lunchtime read: Laugh it up fuzz ball!

You may not be able to cope with this much joy. Take a look at some of the light-hearted images of wildlife submitted by finalists from this year’s Comedy Wildlife Photography awards.

Dwarf mongooses at Lake Bogoria, Kenya.

Dwarf mongooses at Lake Bogoria, Kenya. Photograph: Asaf Sereth/© 2010 Asaf Sereth. All Rights


Serena Williams will have to wait to win a record-equalling 24th grand slam title after falling in the semi-finals to Victoria Azarenka, who will meet Naomi Osaka in the US Open final. Michael Holding has criticised England and Australia for making “lame” and “flimsy” excuses over not taking a knee for the Black Lives Matter movement. The prodigious Marc Hirschi, thwarted on stage two in Nice and again on stage nine to Laruns, finally struck gold to take his debut Tour de France stage victory on the longest day in this year’s race, the 218km leg to Sarran Corrèze. The former world middleweight champion Alan Minter has died aged 69, the British Boxing Board of Control has announced. Having announced he will join Racing Point next season, Sebastian Vettel has revealed he came close to leaving Formula One before securing his new deal. And the NFL season got off to a dismal start when some fans jeered what the league described as “a moment of silence dedicated to the ongoing fight for equality in our country”.


Asian shares have been mixed after technology shares found themselves on the nose again on Wall Street. The Nikkei recouped early losses and the Hang Seng gained, while Shanghai was little changed. Sydney and the South Korea both fell. The pound is worth $1.281 and €1.083 while the FTSE is trending lower at time of writing.

The papers

The life of Dame Diana Rigg is celebrated on most of the front pages today following her death at the age of 82.

Guardian front page, Friday 11 September 2020

Guardian front page, Friday 11 September 2020.

The Guardian leads with “Brexit talks on brink as UK rejects ultimatum” while the Express declaring “Britain shall not be moved” – but isn’t it Britain that is doing the moving, away from the withdrawal agreement struck with the EU? The FT reports: “Brussels threatens No 10 with legal action over breach of Brexit treaty”, while the Telegraph says “EU gives UK 20 days to retreat on Brexit bill”.

The Times has “Dozens of Tory MPs prepare new Brexit revolt” as “up to 30” threaten to reject the internal market bill. “Ultimatum sets up bitter EU divorce”, says the i. Opportunities for wordplay around the word “six” are not yet exhausted: “Boris is hit for six by Nicola” says the Metro, reporting that Scotland’s “rule of six” will let the under-12s congregate in larger numbers. “Cabinet at war over the rule of six” says the Mail, claiming that almost every member of the “Covid cabinet” voted against it. The Mirror has “Nation split by virus” saying “Majority who abide by lockdown laws infuriated by those who don’t”.

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