Rio Tinto to review 'heritage management processes' after blowing up ancient Indigenous caves in WA

Jun 19, 2020

By SBS Australia 

Mining giant Rio Tinto has announced a board-led review of its "heritage management processes" following criticism of its destruction of ancient rock shelters in Western Australia.

The company said the review will be conducted by its non-executive director and former High Commissioner to the UK, Michael L'Estrange, and will seek input from Rio Tinto employees, the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people (PKKP) and subject matter experts.

The review will focus on recommending improvements to its internal processes and governance, appraise Rio Tinto's internal heritage standards, procedures and reporting and will examine the company's relationship and communications with the PKKP.

"The decision to conduct a board-led review of events at Juukan Gorge reflects our determination to learn lessons from what happened and to make any necessary improvements to our heritage processes and governance," chairman Simon Thompson said in a statement.

He also apologised to the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people.

Rio Tinto last month detonated explosives in an area of the Juukan Gorge last month, destroying ancient indigenous caves dating back 46,000 years in Western Australia's north.

The events sparked international outrage, prompting an apology from the company, which claimed a misunderstanding was to blame for the destruction.

A final report from the review is targeted by October 2020.

On Friday morning, Rio Tinto’s former global advisor on social performance accused the company of abandoning its social commitments and said the board was testing the waters of “what it can get away with”.

“[The board are] the ones who ought to be setting the direction and pace of change, saying what the company stands for, not what it can get away with," Professor Glynn Cochrane told ABC radio.


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