Rio Tinto apologises for Juukan Gorge destruction

The Pilbara landscape Image: Rio Tinto

Rio Tinto has told an Australian Parliamentary Inquiry that it is determined to never allow archaeologically and culturally significant sites to be destroyed again.

The submission stated that the company was determined to learn lessons from what happened, regain trust with the Puutu Kunti Karrama and Pinikura people and identify areas it can changes the way it operates.

The mining giant also outlined its relationship with the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people from 2003 to 2020 and the circumstances that led to the events that happened at Juukan Gorge.

Rio Tinto chief executive Jean-Sébastien Jacques will give evidence to the Australian Parliamentary Inquiry committee this Friday, which will be webcast on the Australian Parliament website.

“The destruction of the Juukan rock shelters should not have occurred and I have unreservedly apologised to the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people,” Jacques, who planned to continue meeting with Traditional Owners groups across Australia, said.

“As a first priority, our aim is to strengthen our partnership with the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people. That remains our focus.

“We have also taken actions to strengthen governance, controls and approvals on heritage matters.”

Rio Tinto detonated explosives at the sacred Juukan Gorge site in Western Australia in May.

The site held evidence of human habitation dating back 46,000 years, devastating the Puutu Kunti Karrama and Pinikura people.

The company had received ministerial consent for the blast in 2013, leading Rio Tinto to independently review its relationship with the Traditional Owners, internal heritage standards, procedures, reporting and governance.

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