DARWIN, Australia — The caves, set deep in a desert gorge, had yielded a treasure trove of artifacts tracing Aboriginal people’s long history in Australia: a 28,000-year-old kangaroo bone sharpened into a blade; a 4,000-year-old plait of human hair believed to have been worn as a belt.
Underneath the caverns sat millions of dollars’ worth of high-grade iron ore, in a country where mining is king.
In May, the minerals giant Rio Tinto decided to blow up the caves to get at the riches below. But on Friday, it became clear that Australia’s most powerful export industry had met a force it could not bulldoze: the global movement for racial justice.
The company announced that its chief executive, Jean-Sébastien Jacques, would step down after a shareholder revolt over its destruction of the prehistoric rock shelters in the Juukan Gorge, which are sacred to two Australian Aboriginal groups.
Two other top executives, Chris Salisbury and Simone Niven, will also leave the company, which is based in Britain and Australia.
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