Rio Tinto’s new boss Jakob Stausholm steps into the top job today, taking charge of the mining giant’s efforts to rebuild its tarnished reputation after last year’s decision to blow up ancient Indigenous artefacts in WA’s Pilbara region. The first steps towards rehabilitation by the Danish-born chief executive will be taken half a world away from the Brockman 4 iron ore site that became ground zero for the community, investor and political backlash that claimed the scalp of three Rio executives. Mr Stausholm’s promotion from the role of chief financial officer surprised many last month, and came after a chorus of voices called on Rio’s board to choose an Australian for the CEO position. Rio derives the bulk of its profits from its Pilbara iron ore operations, and politicians such as Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and WA Liberal senator Dean Smith argued the appointment of a WA-based chief executive would make sense. The destruction of the rock shelters at Juukan Gorge, below, which held evidence of human habitation dating back 46,000 years, sparked a Federal parliamentary inquiry that heard damning testimony against the miner. It cost outgoing chief executive Jean-Sebastien Jacques his job, along with iron ore boss Chris Salisbury and PR boss Simone Niven. In September, as the dust settled on the exit of the three top executives, WA Premier Mark McGowan said it was only natural and right that companies which had a big operational workforce in the State also base their headquarters here. Mr Stausholm, who joined Rio from shipping giant Maersk in 2018, will be based at the company’s global headquarters in London, but he is expected to spend considerable time in Australia, and specifically Perth and the Pilbara. COVID-19 travel restrictions, which could require him to complete 14 days of hotel quarantine — and a busy first-quarter schedule — are likely to delay his first visit to WA as Rio’s new chief executive. Mr Stausholm is familiar with Perth, though, having travelled regularly to the city for board duties during his previous tenure as a non-executive director of Woodside. He said he was planning to travel to WA and the Pilbara “as soon as possible in the new year, pending any COVID-19 restrictions”. “I’ve spent a lot of time in Perth, stretching back to my days on the Woodside board almost 15 years ago when I developed a great fondness for the city and its people,” Mr Stausholm, pictured, said. “I am aiming to get back on the ground in WA very soon which will include traveling to the Pilbara.” Rio and the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people said in a joint statement last week that both parties had been involved in remedial works at the blast site. The statement also flagged a Heads of Agreement to capture their respective commitments to work together. “While there has been some important progress made in the relationship so far, we are not underestimating the time it will take to genuinely work together and achieve the mutual objectives of this partnership,” the statement said. In naming Mr Stausholm for the top post last month, Rio noted his “ability to build effective relationships” and “a strong personal commitment to the role of business in promoting sustainable development”. His appointment was endorsed by former Rio boss Sam Walsh and Wesfarmers chairman Michael Chaney, who was Woodside chairman when Mr Stausholm was a director on its board. Mr Chaney said Mr Stausholm “appreciates the complexity of issues” and was “not burdened with a big ego”. “I think he’s the right person for the job,” he said.