READ THIS REPORT (pdf)
@RioTinto is gaining a reputation for not cleaning up its toxic mining mess – New Zealand, Bougainville, Madagascar… Read this 2020 report on Britain’s top two mining companies’ policy of cutting and running. #cleanupyourmess
PROLOGUE: SIMON THOMSON MUST GO NOW!!! is wiggling around concerning his 'resignation'. Simon Thomson He stated already in September 2020 that he would resign over the wanton destruction of a sacred Aboriginal site, but now he only says that he would not stand for re-election as Chairman of the board NEXT YEAR, i.e. 2022.
Meanwhile he dished out the largest dividend to Rio Tinto's investors - all robbed from nature and for the benefit of China's war machine.
The typical Rothchild bankster, who even broke his promises given to the Aboriginal peoples, has loaded lots of bad Karma upon himself.
Rio Tinto chairman quits over Aboriginal site damage in Australia
Anglo-Australian mining giant triggered an outcry last year when it blew up the 46,000-year-old rock shelters at Juukan Gorge.
[File: Richard Wainwright/EPA] Protesters gather in Perth last June to denounce the destruction of the Juukan Gorge in Western Australia
03. March 2021
The chairman of the Anglo-Australian mining company mining giant, Rio Tinto, has announced that he will step down after the company triggered a public outcry by destroying an ancient Aboriginal site in Western Australia to extract $135m worth of iron ore.
Rio blew up the 46,000-year-old rock shelters at Juukan Gorge last May, sparking a public backlash and investor revolt that led to the resignation of the company’s CEO and two top executives last September.
The caves were one of the earliest known locations inhabited by Australia’s Indigenous people and contained some of the oldest Aboriginal artefacts ever found in the country.
Rio Tinto chairman Simon Thompson said the destruction had “overshadowed” the company’s successes in 2020 – during which it paid a record dividend to investors thanks to booming iron ore prices.
“As chairman, I am ultimately accountable for the failings that led to this tragic event,” he said in a statement.
Thompson said he would not seek re-election at the company’s annual general meetings in 2022, allowing a transition period until a replacement is appointed.
He called the destruction “a source of personal sadness and deep regret, as well as being a clear breach of our values as a company”.
The company’s non-executive director Michael L’Estrange will also retire from the board after this year’s meetings.
Thompson and L’Estrange have come under pressure to leave after what was seen as the board’s mishandling of an investigation into the destruction that found no single person accountable.
Thompson came under even more criticism last month after elders of the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people (PKKP) accused him of breaking a personal promise.
The Juukan Gorge site was considered sacred by the PKKP of Western Australia.
Although Rio Tinto had permission from the state government to blast in the area, the PKKP said they had warned that the placement of some explosives would destroy two heritage rock shelters.
A parliamentary inquiry into the destruction recommended the mining firm pay restitution, rebuild the destroyed site and commit to a permanent moratorium on mining in the area.
The Juukan Gorge site was considered sacred by the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people of Western Australia. Iron Ore is sold by Rio Tinto mainly to China to build up the Chinese war machinery.
“Never again can we allow the destruction, the devastation and the vandalism of cultural sites as has occurred with the Juukan Gorge – never again,” said Warren Entsch, the chairman of the investigative panel said when an interim report was released in December.
While the full parliamentary inquiry report is not due until the second half of this year, the panel emphasised that Rio Tinto must carry out the reconstruction and rehabilitation at its own expense.
All artefacts taken from the destroyed sites must also be returned, and all agreement reached with traditional owners of the holy sites must be reviewed.
The Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ACCR), an activist group with shares in Rio Tinto, had also pointed out that while company officials understood the historic importance of the Aboriginal site, it still decided “to blow them up anyway”.
“What sort of person arrives at this decision? What sort of company puts, and keeps, them in charge? What kind of CEO refuses to take any responsibility for the actions of his senior management?” ACCR director Brynn O’Brien was quoted by news reports as saying.
According to estimates, Rio Tinto has a valuation of $123bn. The company is also facing several allegations of corruption and environmental destruction in other parts of the world, including in China, Papua New Guinea and the United States.
SOURCE : AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES
Rio Tinto Chairman Leaving Over Destruction of Sacred Sites
The two rock shelters in Western Australia had been inhabited for 46,000 years.
Rod McGuirk - 02. March 2021
Protesters rally outside the Rio Tinto office in Perth, Australia, on June 9, 2020. Rio Tinto chairman Simon Thompson said Wednesday, March 3, 2021 he was accountable for the mining giant destroying sacred Indigenous sites in Australia to access iron ore and he will not seek reelection as a board director next year. Richard Wainwright/AAP Image/ via AP
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Rio Tinto chairman Simon Thompson said Wednesday he was accountable for the mining giant destroying sacred Indigenous sites in Australia to access iron ore and he will not seek reelection as a board director next year.
Thompson’s announcement came after former chief executive Jean-Sebastien Jacques announced his resignation last September over the destruction in May of two rock shelters in Juukan George in Western Australia state that had been inhabited for 46,000 years.
The company’s successes in 2020 were “overshadowed by the destruction of the Juukan Gorge shelters ... and, as chairman, I am ultimately accountable for the failings that led to this tragic event,” Thompson said in a statement.
“The tragic events at Juukan Gorge are a source of personal sadness and deep regret, as well as being a clear breach of our values as a company,” he added.
Jamie Lowe, chief executive of the National Native Title Council, which represents Australia’s traditional owners of the land, described Thompson's departure as a necessary step that Indigenous people had been demanding since the rock shelters were blasted.
“We think the cultural shift within Rio Tinto needed to happen immediately and it’s too bad its taken some eight months to be actually able to see that come to fruition,” Lowe said.
Jacques was replaced as chief executive in January by Jakob Stausholm.
Executives Chris Salisbury and Simone Niven also left the company last year due to shareholder anger at the destruction that outraged traditional owners of the gorge, the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people.
Rio Tinto announced on Wednesday that director Michael L’Estrange would retire from the board at the conclusion of the April annual general meetings in Britain and Australia.
L’Estrange led a widely criticized internal review of how the rock shelters came to be blasted against traditional owners’ wishes.
The review concluded in August that there was “no single root cause or error that directly resulted in the destruction of the rock shelters.”
But internal documents revealed in September that Rio Tinto had engaged a law firm in case the traditional owners applied for a court injunction to save the rock shelters.
The Western Australian government has promised to update Indigenous heritage laws that allowed Rio Tinto to legally destroy the sacred sites.
Rio Tinto pays out biggest dividend in its 148-year history
By Lina Saigol - 17. February 2021
Rio Tinto on Wednesday reported its best annual earnings since 2011, and
declared its biggest dividend in its history, after strong demand for iron ore from China sent the price of the steelmaking ingredient to a nine-year high.
The world's top iron ore producer said it would pay a final dividend of $5 billion and a special dividend of $1.5 billion, bringing its total 2020 shareholder payout to $9 billion -- the biggest in the company's 148-year history.
Shares in Rio Tinto , which are up more than 17% in the year to date, rose 3.59% higher in early morning London trading on Wednesday. Shares in rival miner BHP Group , which this week reported its best first-half profit in seven years and declared a record interim dividend, rose 7.19%.
Rio Tinto's underlying earnings rose 20% (
link) to $12.4 billion in the year to December, on revenue of $44.6 billion, up from $11.1 billion in 2019.
The price of iron ore, which accounts for around 90% (
link) of Rio Tinto's earnings, rose 70% in 2020, fueled by robust demand from China's infrastructure and construction sectors as the country's economic recovery accelerates after the COVID-19 pandemic.
In his first set of annual results (
link) since taking the top job in January, Rio Tinto (RIO.LN) Chief Executive Jakob Stausholm said it had been an "extraordinary year" for the company but a "year of extremes."
"Our successful response to the COVID-19 pandemic and strong safety performance were overshadowed by the tragic events at the Juukan Gorge, which should never have happened," he said.
Read: Rio Tinto CEO resigns over destruction of caves (
Rio Tinto sparked public and investor outrage last year when it blasted 46,000-year-old Aboriginal rock shelters at Juukan Gorge in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, triggering the resignation of former chief executive Jean-Sébastien Jacques (Opinion: Resignation of mining CEO after destruction of Aboriginal caves represents a tectonic shift in social investing) and two other executives.
Photograph: Richard Wainwright/AAP
A protest outside Rio Tinto’s office in Perth in June last year.
Stausholm said on Wednesday that the mining group will increase its focus on operational excellence and project development, as well as strengthen its environmental and social credentials. He set out three goals to lower the carbon dioxide emissions generated by its customers when they burn or process its raw materials, including investment in technologies that could cut the carbon intensity of steelmaking by at least 30% from 2030.
"The big factor for Rio Tinto has been iron ore, which has allowed the company to deliver $9.4 billion in free cash flow, the highest figure of the past decade," said Peter McNally, global sector lead for industrials, materials & energy at investment research firm Third Bridge.
"As long as iron ore prices are sustained and Rio Tinto can deliver their volumes in safe operating environment, their financial outlook remains healthy. New management continues to express regret for the destruction of rock shelters at Juukan Gorge and is implementing more sustainable mining activities," he added.
Read: Dividend party from commodities giants Glencore and BHP adds strength to London stock market (
Rio Tinto is the second major iron ore producer to return money on the back of the rise in commodity prices. On Tuesday, BHP reported its best first-half profit (
link) in seven years and declared a record interim dividend, while trading and mining giant Glencore said it would resume its dividend after suspending it in August last year.
Stausholm, who visited Juukan Gorge last week, said he did "not underestimate the time and effort it will take for us to help restore trust and rebuild our reputation" over the incident.
-Lina Saigol; 415-439-6400;
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
Rio Tinto ordered to rebuild ancient Aboriginal caves
By BBC - 09. December 2020
The Juukan Gorge cave site before and after the mining works - IMAGE COPYRIGHT AFP
Mining giant Rio Tinto must rebuild a 46,000-year-old Aboriginal cave system it blew up in May, an Australian parliamentary inquiry has said.
The Juukan Gorge caves in Western Australia were destroyed as part of an iron ore exploration project.
In a report released on Wednesday, the inquiry blasted Rio Tinto's "inexcusable" act, and said they should compensate the traditional owners.
Rio Tinto repeated its apology and pledged to change its practices.
Earlier this year several senior figures at the company, including Chief Executive Jean-Sébastien Jacques, resigned over the incident, following a backlash from shareholders and the public.
Before their destruction, the Juukan Gorge caves in Pilbara had shown evidence of continuous human habitation since the last Ice Age.
They were seen as one of Australia's most significant archaeological research sites, but they also had more than eight million tonnes of high-grade iron ore, with an estimated value of £75m (A$132m; $96m).
Following an outcry over their destruction Rio Tinto held an inquiry, after which it
cut bonuses for directors and began attempts at repairing relations with Aboriginal communities.
A parliamentary inquiry was also established to investigate Rio Tinto's behaviour and assess the damage caused to the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura (PKKP) people - the traditional owners of the land where the caves were based.
In its report - titled Never Again - the inquiry concluded Rio Tinto "knew the value of what they were destroying but blew it up anyway".
- IMAGE COPYRIGHT GETTY IMAGES Jean-Sébastien Jacques resigned as Rio Tinto's chief executive in September, following outcry over the caves' destruction
It made seven recommendations, including a moratorium on all mining in the local area, and changes to heritage protection laws.
The PKKP Aboriginal Corporation has welcomed the verdict and said it hopes it will "prompt a fundamental reset of the [mining] sector".
In a statement, Rio Tinto said it was "working very hard to progress a remedy" with the PKKP, and the caves' destruction "does not reflect the values that [we] aspire to".
Rio Tinto’s group executive of corporate relations, Simone Niven, will leave the business on 31 December, alongside CEO Jean-Sebastien Jacques and chief executive of iron ore, Chris Salisbury, following the destruction of Aboriginal cultural heritage site, the Juukan Gorge rock shelters, in May this year.
The changes to the executive committee were announced by the board to the ASX last week. The board stated the decision came after “significant stakeholders have expressed concerns about executive accountability” for the failings identified in RioTinto’s Board Review of Cultural Heritage Management that was published in August.
Initially, Rio Tinto proposed a reduction in the bonuses of key executives involved in the Juukan Gorge blast decision, which would have cost Jacques $4.9m. Despite the context of their departures Niven, Jacques and Salisbury will all be entitled to long-term bonuses, in line with Rio Tinto’s group remuneration policy and their applicable contract terms.
Rio Tinto’s Simone Niven will be leaving the business
Rio Tinto chairman, Simon Thompson, said “all three individuals, like the rest of the board, deeply regret the destruction of the Juukan rock shelters”.
“What happened at Juukan was wrong and we are determined to ensure that the destruction of a heritage site of such exceptional archaeological and cultural significance never occurs again at a Rio Tinto operation,” he said.
“We are also determined to regain the trust of the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people and other Traditional Owners.
“We have listened to our stakeholders’ concerns that a lack of individual accountability undermines the Group’s ability to rebuild that trust and to move forward to implement the changes identified in the board review.”
Niven has been with the business since 2013. She started as global head of media and corporate communications before being elevated to global head of external affairs, communities and communications, and later group executive. As
reported in the AFR, Niven earned a $3.23m salary in 2019.
Niven’s departure also comes after Rio Tinto announced it would establish a social performance assurance function which would report directly to group executive of HSE, technical and projects, Mark Davies, in order to strengthen oversight of communities and heritage practices.
The destruction of the Juukan Gorge rock shelters created a nation-wide furore. The caves provided evidence of continuous human habitation dating back 46,000 years, however the destruction was approved by the West Australian Government as an exemption to section 18 of the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972, “where land users conclude that impact to a Site is unavoidable”. The government’s decision is now under review.
The explosion gave Rio Tinto access to a
reported extra eight million tonnes of high-grade iron ore.
“Rio Tinto is a financially and operationally robust business with world-class assets, a clear strategy and outstanding people. We are determined to learn the lessons from Juukan and to re-establish our reputation as a leader in communities and heritage management,” Thompson concluded.
Jacques will remain CEO until the appointment of his successor or 31 March 2021.
Zoe Wilkinson is a reporter at Mumbrella. Zoe graduated from UNSW where she completed a dual Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Media, majoring in marketing and public relations. She has interned at Ten, News Xtend and Seven.
Rio Tinto executives resign
Three Rio Tinto executives have resigned following mounting pressure from lobby groups and shareholders since the decision was made to destroy a sacred Aboriginal site in the Pilbara.
Jean-Sébastien Jacques (Foto Reuters)
Rio Tinto CEO
Jean-Sébastien Jacques and his two Exec wing-men, Chris Salisbury and Simone Niven, have resigned as the mining giant continues to face pressure from investors for blowing up a 46,000-year-old sacred Indigenous site in Australia to expand an iron ore mine.
The list of RIO TINTO CEO troubles is long:
Rio Tinto director John Varley, 61, resigned on 19. June 2017.from the mining giant's board after being charged with conspiracy to commit fraud by the UK Serious Fraud Office.
Mr Varley was charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation, and one count of providing unlawful financial assistance.
John Varley resigned from the board of Rio Tinto after he was charged with fraud. CREDIT:DANIEL MUNOZ
Mr Varley is a former chief executive officer of Barclays Bank.
Already on 16. January 2013 former Rio Tinto CEO Tom Albanese resigned over a $14bn write-down, after admitting 'accountability' for the loss of assets following bad deals in Mozambique.
(Reuters / Yuriko Nakao) © Reuters Former Rio Tinto CEO Tom Albanese
Rio Tinto CEO resigns after destruction of 46,000-year-old sacred Indigenous site
By Laura He and Angus Watson - 10/11. September 2020
Hong Kong / Sydney (CNN Business) - Rio Tinto ( RIO) CEO Jean-Sébastien Jacques has resigned under pressure from investors over the company's destruction of a 46,000-year-old sacred Indigenous site in Australia to expand an iron ore mine.
Jacques will leave once his successor is chosen or at the end of next March, whichever date comes first, according to the company.
Two other executives are also departing:
Chris Salisbury, head of the iron ore business, and Simone Niven, group executive for corporate relations. Salisbury is stepping down from his position immediately and will leave the company at the end of the year. Niven will also exit at the end of December.
Rio Tinto's stock was down nearly 1% in Sydney on Friday.
"What happened at Juukan was wrong," Rio Tinto chairman Simon Thompson said in a statement, referring to the destruction of two rock shelters in Western Australia that contained artifacts indicating tens of thousands of years of continuous human occupation.
"We are determined to ensure that the destruction of a heritage site of such exceptional archaeological and cultural significance never occurs again at a Rio Tinto operation," Thompson added.
The three executives will still receive some pay as part of the terms of their contracts, including long-term incentive rewards. They have already been penalized a combined £3.8 million (roughly $5 million) in cut bonuses.
The destruction of the Juukan Gorge caves went ahead on May 24 despite a seven-year battle by the local custodians of the land, the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people, to protect the site. Rio Tinto
apologized in June.
In a report published last month, the company said that it failed to meet some of its own standards "in relation to the responsible management and protection of cultural heritage." But it didn't fire any executives — a decision that drew criticism from investor groups that accused the company of failing to take full responsibility for the demolition of the caves. The caves had significant archeological value and deep cultural meaning for Aboriginal people.
In Friday's statement, Rio Tinto acknowledged that "significant stakeholders have expressed concerns about executive accountability for the failings identified."
Some advocacy groups in Australia welcomed Rio Tinto's decision.
"This is just the first step on a long path towards restoring Rio Tinto's good practice and reputation in its relationships with Indigenous peoples," James Fitzgerald, head of legal counsel and strategy at the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility, said in a statement.
"The damage is irreparable," he added. "We will need to hear from the [Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura] people as to whether they are satisfied with any reparations Rio Tinto has offered."
The National Native Title Council, an organization representing the rights and interests of Indigenous custodial groups, also welcomed the departures.
"But this is not the end," CEO Jamie Lowe
tweeted. "Rio must now undertake an Aboriginal led review & large scale cultural change."
Secret recording: Rio Tinto 'not sorry' for cave blast
Joe Aston - 15. June 2020
Going by the global headlines, you'd think Rio Tinto had expressed deep remorse for destroying a 46,000-year-old Aboriginal heritage site over the protests of its traditional owners. But you would be wrong.
One of Rio Tinto's most senior executives told employees on Thursday that the company is not sorry for blowing up the Juukan Gorge caves, only for the distress caused by doing so.
Rio Tinto's iron ore boss Chris Salisbury has vowed to do better. AAP
In an internal "town hall" meeting held on Wednesday evening (a recording of which we've obtained), Rio's iron ore boss
Chris Salisbury faced a staff member's complaint that "people have seen how we've positioned our response with an apology for the distress caused, not for doing the wrong thing".
Answering, Salisbury gave a lengthy explanation of the events leading to the detonation of the sacred Aboriginal site last month and clarified that "that's why we haven't apologised for the event itself,
per se, but apologised for the distress the event caused".
Salisbury also referred to the destruction of the caves as "quite galling to me as well, because we are recognised … as one of the leading resources companies in this field".
He also assured staff that Rio retains the muted backing of "political leaders of both sides".
"I’ve engaged with lots and lots of stakeholders and … quietly, there is still support for us out there."
Salisbury's remarks are eerily evocative of
Brian Hartzer comforting his senior team in November that “we don’t need to overcook this” because Westpac, which had been sending money to the Philippines for a known paedophile, was "not an Enron". Hartzer at least had the decency to resign a few hours later.
The staff meeting was chaired by Rio's PR and
community relations boss , who is working from Sydney with the group's chief executive Simone Niven Jean-Sébastien Jacques. Niven confirmed that Jacques himself had met with Reconciliation Australia, which last week revoked its endorsement of Rio Tinto and suspended the company from its Reconciliation Action Plan program.
After three weeks of astonishing silence throughout the controversy, Jacques finally put his name to a contrite public statement on Friday – only after the initiation of a Senate inquiry into Rio's actions.
The confrontational tone of questions posed to Salisbury and Niven – and the fact a recording of the internal briefing has been leaked to
The Australian Financial Review – suggest that Rio employees are appalled by the company’s unapologetic stance on the Juukan Gorge incident.
"How does this change Rio Tinto's employee value proposition?" one staffer asked, given "the incident goes against my own personal and professional values".
"How you think about values is clearly an individual choice," Niven responded. "It is a personal choice and you need to weigh up yourself around how you see the values dimension. I guess from my perspective, you think about it from a company perspective. I've been with this company for 12 years. I wouldn't work for Rio if I didn’t believe in it."
It's unclear what half of that meant, but last year Rio Tinto paid Niven $3.23 million. No wonder she believes in it.
has helmed The Australian Financial Review's Rear Window column since 2012. He is based in Los Angeles. Connect with Joe on Joe Aston Facebook and Twitter. Email Joe at
AustralianSuper seeks tougher penalties for Rio Tinto cave blast
26. August 2020
Australia's largest superannuation fund has met with Rio Tinto to seek tougher penalties for the blasting of the ancient Juukan Gorge rock shelters, saying the bonus cuts announced earlier this week fall significantly short of appropriate accountability.
Ian Silk, chief executive of the $180 billion superannuation giant AustralianSuper, said the fund had met with Rio Tinto chairman Simon Thompson to express its view the proposed penalties were inadequate punishment for destruction of the two 46,000-year-old rock shelters considered to be among the most significant cultural heritage sites in Australia.
AustralianSuper chief Ian Silk wants tougher penalties over destruction of Juukan Gorge. Credit:James Alcock
Mr Silk said he had requested tougher penalties than the reduction of a combined $7 million in bonuses for chief executive Jean-Sebastien Jacques, iron ore boss Chris Salisbury and corporate affairs boss Simone Niven.
"The proposed penalties fall significantly short of appropriate accountability for those responsible," he said.
"We have asked the board to reconsider its response, and are continuing to engage with the company on the matter."
After a two-month review into the destruction that left the site's traditional owners devastated, Rio Tinto on Monday said the investigation had found systemic flaws but "no single root cause or error" and had concluded that the three executives' failures were of "omission rather than commission" as they had not been aware of the rock shelters' cultural value prior to detonation.
Mr Jacques would be stripped of 2020 bonus payments worth about $4.8 million, while Ms Niven and Mr Salisbury would lose about $1 million each. In 2019, Mr Jacques received a salary of £5.79 million ($10.5 million).
The announcement raised immediate concerns from activist groups and institutional investors that the proposed consequences failed to deliver on meaningful accountability.
"The report highlights profound systemic, operational and governance failings," Mr Silk said.
The $52 billion superannuation fund HESTA, which also invests in Rio, noted the findings that the blasting of the gorge, although legally sanctioned, had fallen "well short" of the miner's own standards but had failed to specify who was ultimately responsible for adhering to those standards and for ongoing oversight of heritage management.
"The report fails to assuage investor concerns about the gap in Rio Tinto's public commitment to lead on heritage protection, and its actions," HESTA chief executive Debby Blakey said.
Australian Council of Superannuation Investors chief executive Louise Davidson called on Rio's board to explain why greater accountability was not being applied in light of the disaster. "Remuneration appears to be the only sanction applied to executives," Ms Davidson said. "This raises the question – does the company feel that £4 million is the right price for the destruction of cultural heritage?"
Other major investors, including UK's Local Authority Pension Fund Forum, have welcomed Rio's release of the internal review and bonus cuts for the three executives as a "proper and appropriate first step".
Rio Tinto has acknowledged "you cannot put a monetary value" on the loss of the Juukan site ."But these are significant penalties," Mr Thompson said of the pay cuts on Monday. "I think they reflect both the seriousness of the incident and the damage that has been done to Rio Tinto's reputation."
Rio Tinto: OUT OF ABORIGINAL LANDS !
PROLOGUE: Australian, Anglo-American gutter press speaks of "apololgy". What apology?
"On Saturday, the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura Aboriginal Corporation rejected Rio’s suggestion its representatives had failed to make clear concerns about preserving the site during years of consultation between the two parties" This desecration and the appalling incompetence and disregard for Black perspectives is inexcusable. If Rio Tinto were sooooo commited to equity and partnership they WOULD NOT need to be told. This destruction goes well beyond simply failing to listen to the Cultural Authorities, this is a crime against humanity itself. Sorry? Sorry goes no where close - your Mining Activities must be outlawed on the basis of gross negligence.
Rio Tinto apologises to traditional owners after blasting 46,000-year-old Aboriginal site
Mining giant detonated explosives at Juukan Gorge in Western Australia, destroying two ancient rock shelters
By Australian Associated Press -
31. May 2020 Rio Tinto apologies for destroying Indigenous site 46,000 years old. Photograph: PKKP Aboriginal Corporation/AFP/Getty Images
Mining giant Rio Tinto has apologised to traditional owners in Western Australia’s north after
destroying a significant Indigenous site dating back 46,000 years, saying it is urgently reviewing plans for other sites in the area.
Rio detonated explosives in a part of the Juukan Gorge last Sunday, destroying two ancient rock shelters, which has devastated the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people.
The mining giant was granted approval for work at the Brockman 4 iron ore project in 2013, but subsequent archaeological excavation revealed ancient artefacts including grinding stones, a bone sharpened into a tool and 4000-year-old braided hair.
“We are sorry for the distress we have caused,”
Rio Tinto Iron Ore chief executive Chris Salisbury said in a statement on Sunday.
“Our relationship with the PKKP matters a lot to Rio Tinto, having worked together for many years.
“We will continue to work with the PKKP to learn from what has taken place and strengthen our partnership.
“As a matter of urgency, we are reviewing the plans of all other sites in the Juukan Gorge area.”
On Saturday, the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura Aboriginal Corporation rejected Rio’s suggestion its representatives had failed to make clear concerns about preserving the site during years of consultation between the two parties.
Spokesman Burchell Hayes labelled the claim outrageous, saying Rio was told in October about the significance of the rock shelters and the company replied it had no plans to extend the Brockman 4 mine.
“The high significance of the site was further relayed to Rio Tinto by PKKPAC as recently as March,” Hayes said.
He said Rio did not advise of its intention to blast the area and the corporation “only found out by default on 15 May when we sought access to the area for NAIDOC Week in July”.
WA Aboriginal affairs minister Ben Wyatt has said he was unaware of the blast or concerns beforehand.
The state government hopes to pass its new Aboriginal cultural heritage bill this year, although Covid-19 has delayed the consultation process.
“It will provide for agreements between traditional owners and proponents to include a process to consider new information that may come to light, and allow the parties to be able to amend the agreements by mutual consent,” Wyatt said.
“The legislation will also provide options for appeal.”
Peter Stone, Unesco’s chair in cultural property protection and peace, said the archaeological destruction at Juukan Gorge was among the worst seen in recent history, likening it to the Taliban blowing up the Bamiyan Buddhas statues in Afghanistan and Isis annihilating sites in the Syrian city of Palmyra.
Rio said it was committed to updating its practices.
Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian The high court has rejected Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest’s bid to appeal a federal court decision that found the Yindjibarndi traditional owners held exclusive native title rights to land on which his company, Fortescue Metals, owns an iron ore mine.
Mining magnate Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest may have to pay millions in compensation to Yindjibarndi traditional owners in the Pilbara, after the high court dismissed his bid to appeal a federal court decision that they held exclusive native title rights to the area.
In 2017, the federal court granted Yindjibarndi native title under exclusive possession to 2,700 square kilometres of land in the Pilbara, including the site of Forrest’s Solomon Hub iron ore mine, worth billions of dollars.
It is now expected that FMG will have to negotiate a land use agreement with traditional owners, or pay millions in compensation.
Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation lawyer George Irvine told Guardian Australia the traditional owners were jubilant at today’s decision, which marked the end of a long and bitter legal battle.
Ngaarda Media Pilbara (@ngaarda)
Yindjibarndi waiting with bated breathe for High Court decision.
@benwyatt @NITV @KenWyattMP pic.twitter.com/F0pKzVe3dl May 29, 2020
Irvine said they were still open to negotiating “in good faith” with FMG on a settlement “but it depends on them”.
“No greater effort could have been made to negotiate with FMG,” he said. “But, in the absence of any negotiations, the only legal recourse is a claim for compensation and the Yindjibarndi will do that. They have a mining company turning their country upside down.
“FMG are currently operating on country without consent.”
Photograph: John W Banagan/Getty Images Karijini National Park, W.A near the Yindjibarni claim area
Forrest has previously said he was opposed to a compensation deal, describing it as “mining welfare”.
In a statement released after the decision, FMG said it “reconfirms its earlier advice that the decision of the federal court has no impact on its current or future operations or mining tenure at the Solomon Hub, and the company does not anticipate any material financial impact to the business as a result of the decision of the full federal court”.
The Fortescue chief executive, Elizabeth Gaines, said: “Fortescue has a strong history of working with our Traditional Custodians and Native Title Partners across the Pilbara, delivering Native Title royalties, training and assistance to over 1,600 Aboriginal people and over A$2.5bn in contracts to Aboriginal businesses.
“We accept, and have always accepted, the Yindjibarndi people’s non-exclusive native title rights and interests over the relevant area. While we are disappointed with the outcome, as we believe this is an important point of law regarding the test for exclusive possession with potential implications for a range of industries, we accept the high court’s decision.
“We remain open to negotiating a land access agreement to the benefit of all Yindjibarndi people on similar terms to the agreements Fortescue has in place with other native title groups in the region.”
But Irvine said this point was not what the traditional owners wanted, saying they want to strike a deal for Yindjibarni based on their exclusive possession rights, not based on the offers FMG has made to other traditional owners groups in the Pilbara.
Rio Tinto blasting of Jukkan Gorge Indigenous site prompts call for heritage protections
Toby Hussey, Karen Michelmore and Holly Ferguson - 28. May 2020
Jukkan Gorge in 2013, left, and 2020. (Supplied: Puutu Kunti Kurrama And Pinikura Aboriginal Corporation, composite ABC News)
National Native Title Council chief executive Jamie Lowe said state legislation needed immediate reform.
"This has been happening forever really [in] Australia as we know it," he said.
Rio Tinto received approval for the work from the Barnett government in 2013 under Section 18 of the Aboriginal Heritage Act.
Section 18 allows landowners to apply for an exemption to laws that prohibit works if they're likely to affect Aboriginal sites.
Landowners send a notice for consent to the Aboriginal Cultural Material Committee, which recommends to the Aboriginal Affairs Minister whether approval should be granted.
In the wake of this week's news, WA Mining and Pastoral Region MP Robin Chapple said Aboriginal Affairs Minister Ben Wyatt should review all approved Section 18 notices.
He said the approvals process had been "a dog's breakfast" for 30 years.
"We've got to fix this," he said.
"It doesn't need an amendment to the Act to resolve this — it just needs ensuring the [ACMC] do their job as they're required to do, and that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs actually takes on his role as the Minister and … protect[s] Aboriginal cultural material.
"It's not just this Minister: it's the ministers of every single government right back to the 1990s."
News of the caves' destruction caused immediate community backlash, including from Puutu Kunti Kurruma traditional owner Burchell Hayes, whose ancestors lived in the region.
Mr Hayes said it would impact education of future generations, and wanted the State Government to ensure other at-risk sites don't come to the same fate.
Greens Senator Rachel Siewert said it was a national issue, calling out what she said was a bias in heritage laws.
"I went and had a look at both our national and state heritage lists … the state list goes back to the 1830s and protects places like the Round House [in Fremantle]," she said.
"People would not contemplate destroying those buildings and yet this site, which is 46,000 years old, is destroyed with inadequate appeal rights and not a comment from the State or Federal governments or any intention to stop it happening."
Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation chief executive Simon Hawkins said the incident was evidence Aboriginal heritage wasn't "treated the same as colonial heritage".
Mr Hawkins said the weekend's blasting highlights "the crucial need to improve current legislation around Aboriginal heritage".
"Both state-sanctioned and illegal destruction of sites significant to Aboriginal people is a regular occurrence throughout WA," he said.
He said changing the Aboriginal Heritage Act to provide greater protections for heritage sites could "give a powerful message to the Western Australian community of the significance of Aboriginal heritage as the original and irreplaceable part of Western Australia's collective cultural heritage."
On Wednesday, Rio Tinto chief executive Chris Salisbury said the company took cultural heritage "very seriously" and had secured the required approvals before its works in Juukan Gorge.
A company statement said it would continue to work with the Puutu Kunti Kurruma and Pinikura people, traditional owner groups, government and industry on reform to the Aboriginal Heritage Act.
Mr Wyatt acknowledged the disappointment within the Aboriginal community.
"This was a significant site, not just for Aboriginal people but I suspect for the archaeological history of Australia," he said.
The State Government is currently reviewing the Aboriginal Heritage Act, which Mr Wyatt said he hoped would result in more opportunities for community input in future Section 18 approvals.
"What we're hoping to do with our amendments is to ensure that new information can also be part of the process," he said.
"Under the Act … there's no timeframe in which an approval expires, and that's I suspect one of the weaknesses we've seen here."