Rio Tinto has admitted that its decision to blow up rock caves in Western Australia last year « irreparably damaged » indigenous sites sacred to First Nations people.
The mining giant published its 2020 annual report on Monday morning, blaming the destruction of the Juukan Gorge caves in the Pilbara region, which were of great concern to the Aborigines.
The PKKP Aboriginal Corporation – which represents the interests of traditional landowners – has publicly stated that Rio Tinto’s decision to detonate the sites has caused immense trauma for local communities.
Rio Tinto said the first mining deals were signed between 2006 and 2011 and management overlooked the site’s historical importance.
« The decision to destroy the rock shelters was made almost eight years ago. However, since mining is such a long-lived industry, that decision was not implemented until 2020, » the company said in a statement.
« We are working with the PKKP people to find a suitable remedy for the destruction of the rock shelters. »
The company admitted that an archaeological survey of the area in 2013 and 2014 should have prompted an internal review.
Rio Tinto said it is taking steps to revise its processes and approach to cultural heritage. It also noted that it was working with First Nations groups on cleanup through a parliamentary inquiry.
Newly appointed managing director Jakob Stausholm said the company is determined to rehabilitate and rebuild its credibility and reputation.
« Our destruction of the 46,000-year-old rock shelters at Juukan Gorge in Western Australia was a violation of that leadership and our values, » said Stausholm.
« We are working hard to heal and rebuild our relationships, credibility and reputation, and I know it will take time and effort. »
Three executives, including former managing director Jean-Sebastien Jacques, were ousted from the company after the scandal.
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