Rio Tinto acknowledges report from Australian Parliamentary Committee

December 9, 2020

An interim report from the Joint Standing Committee on Northern Australia concluded that Rio Tinto should pay restitution to Indigenous Australians affected by its destruction of two ancient rock shelters to expand an iron ore mine.

The panel released an interim report in which it also recommended Rio Tinto should fully reconstruct the rock shelters in Western Australia’s Pilbara region at its own expense, and laid out broader industry guidance that included reviewing consent practices and a moratorium on mining in the affected places.

The inquiry did not spell out what, if any, financial compensation Rio Tinto should pay to the traditional owners as part of a negotiated restitution package. But it said the agreement should include keeping places where artefacts and other material could be stored and displayed for their benefit.

Rio Tinto acknowledged the report and reiterated its apology to the the Traditional Owners, the PKKP. 

Simon Thompson, Chairman of Rio Tinto, said “We recognize the destruction of the Juukan rockshelters caused significant pain to the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people and we are working very hard to progress a remedy with them.

“As a business, we are committed to learning from this event to ensure the destruction of heritage sites of such exceptional archaeological and cultural significance never occurs again. We have made important changes to the way we manage cultural heritage sites and our relationships with Traditional Owners, including a commitment to modernize our agreements. We recognize the importance of ensuring relationships with Traditional Owners are built on partnerships based on mutual benefit, respect and trust.”

Reuters reported that the parliamentary inquiry into the legal destruction of the 46,000-year-old Juukan Gorge rock shelter in May held 13 public hearings, and received more than 140 submissions from miners, heritage specialists and Aboriginal and civil society groups.
The committee now aims to finish its report in the second half of 2021, once it has heard testimony from other states after COVID-19-related disruptions.

The inquiry has sparked some industry change, with miners reviewing processes and their relationships with traditional owners of the land on which they operate.

Rio Tinto is expected to announce its new chief executive any day, after Jean-Sébastien Jacques and two other senior leaders agreed to step down in August due to the procedural failings it found led to the disaster and the way it was initially managed.

 

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