Rio Tinto to put heritage issues on par with safety, productivity

Traditional Owners

The Pilbara landscape Image: Rio Tinto.

Rio Tinto has conceded that the company fell short of its standards despite legally blasting the Juukan Gorge rock shelters in Western Australia during May.

The mining giant has published its board review of cultural heritage management, which outlined areas the business must improve, strengthen and amend practices, work culture and governance.

This includes ensuring heritage issues are treated with equal priority to safety and operational performance, prioritising better relationships between senior leaders and Traditional Owners and First Nations people.

Rio Tinto will establish a new social performance function, reporting to the group executive for health, safety and the environment, technical and projects, to ensure heritage enquiries are escalated to more senior decision-making levels.

The board has also decided that Rio Tinto chief executive Jean-Sébastien Jacques, chief executive of iron ore Chris Salisbury and group executive of corporate relations Simone Niven will not receive performance-related bonuses for 2020.

Jacuqes’ 2016 long-term incentive plan award will also be reduced by £1 million ($1.8 million), subject to vesting, which is due in the first half of 2021.

Rio Tinto chairman Simon Thompson said the review has made it clear that no single individual error was responsible for the destruction at Juukan Gorge but there were numerous failed opportunities over the course of a decade where the company failed to uphold the company’s core value of respect for local communities and their heritage.

“While the review provides a clear framework for change, it is important to emphasise that this is the start of a process, not the end,” Thompson said.

“We will implement important new measures and governance to ensure we do not repeat what happened at Juukan Gorge and we will continue our work to rebuild trust with the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people.

“We fully recognise Traditional Owners must be treated as equal partners which includes regular, open and respectful dialogue.

“We are determined to learn, improve and rebuild trust across various internal and external partners.”

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