Rio Tinto aims to rebuild trust after Juukan Gorge

Rio Tinto

Rio Tinto CEO Jakob Stausholm.

Rio Tinto vows to increase transparency around its approach to cultural heritage protection as the company releases its first progress report after the Juukan Gorge rock shelter incident in Western Australia.

The report explores the work Rio Tinto has done to improve its communities and social performance (CSP) practices, and after committing to increase disclosures around its pledged CSP improvements in March, the company engaged with global investors to ensure its commitment came to fruition.

The report explores four areas where Rio Tinto are designating effort to improve its CSP.

It outlines Rio Tinto’s “progress against our own commitments and internal workstreams, external obligations and recommendations” in light of the Juukan Gorge incident.

The company also indicates “how Traditional Owners’ views are being sought and considered in shaping these commitments and Traditional Owners’ perspectives on how successfully these commitments are being met”.

Rio Tinto also demonstrates the company’s “enhanced governance arrangements” to oversee its ESP improvements, while also outlining its work to improve cultural heritage management across the mining industry.

The report includes direct feedback Rio Tinto sought from Traditional Owner groups regarding the company’s commitments as part of its Board Review of Cultural Heritage Management in August 2020.

Rio Tinto chief executive Jakob Stausholm said his company is determined to improve its relationship with Traditional Owners.

“We are working hard to rebuild trust and meaningful relationships with the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura (PKKP) people and other Traditional Owners across Australia,” he said.

“We understand this will take time and consistent effort, but our absolute focus is on improving our engagement with Indigenous Peoples and host communities so that we can better understand their priorities and concerns, minimise our impacts and responsibly manage cultural heritage.

Acknowledging there’s still room for improvement, Stausholm said he is buoyed by recent engagement and the conversations that are taking place.

“We thank those Traditional Owners who generously shared their feedback and perspectives. While their insights confirm we have much more to do, feedback like this is vital to shaping relationships that are respectful, genuine and inclusive,” he said.

“We know that we cannot change the past. But we can continue to seek out, listen to and respect different voices and perspectives, to ensure that in the future, cultural heritage sites of significance are treated with the care they deserve.

“And the changes we make should improve, over time, our engagement with Indigenous and First Nations communities in every region where we operate worldwide.”

Demonstrated improvements detailed in the report include Rio Tinto’s ongoing remediation work of the Juukan Gorge in consultation with the PKKP people.

Rio Tinto also outline the reviews it is conducting of heritage sites it manages in the Pilbara, ensuring there are no other sites of exceptional cultural significance within the company’s existing mine plans.

Rio Tinto also say it now has 300 CSP professionals working on 60 sites in 35 countries, which is up from 250 professionals in 2020.

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