‘By no means once more’: Rio Tinto blasted over Juukan Gorge destruction | Australia

A parliamentary inquiry in Australia recommended that the Anglo-Australian mining company Rio Tinto compensate the country’s indigenous peoples for the destruction of two ancient sites and criticized the government for failing to protect the Aboriginal group.

In an interim report entitled “Never Again” released on Wednesday, the panel also recommended that the mining giant impose a moratorium on mining in the Juukan Gorge in Western Australia and rehabilitate the sacred sites, which are estimated to be 46,000 years old.

Rio Tinto sparked a public outcry in May when it blew up portions of the Juukan Gorge as part of an expansion to extract $ 135 million worth of iron ore.

“Never again can we allow the destruction, destruction and vandalism of cultural sites like we did in Juukan Gorge – never again,” said Warren Ent, member of the House of Representatives and chairman of the panel.

Dec said the indigenous peoples were “disappointed” by the mining company, as well as by the Western Australian government, the federal government, their own lawyers and the Native Title Law itself.

“With these recommendations, the committee and I want to break this cycle. The neglect of the PKKP people stops there, ”he said, referring to the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura peoples who live in the devastated places in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.

Provisions in the state laws of Western Australia – including the Aboriginal Heritage Act of 1972 – also allowed the company to legally conduct the destruction. Under Section 18 of the Act, developers can apply for consent to legally damage or destroy indigenous areas.

Return of artifacts

While the full report is not due until the second half of next year, the panel stressed that Rio Tinto must carry out the reconstruction and refurbishment at its own expense.

All artifacts obtained from the destroyed sites must also be returned, and any arrangements made with the traditional owners of the holy sites must be reviewed.

At least 13 public hearings have been held since the May destruction, and the panel has received more than 140 contributions from miners, cultural heritage specialists, and Aboriginal and civil society groups.

Decision, the head of the committee of inquiry, said that given the amount of evidence presented and delays due to the COVID-19 lockdown, the committee would not be able to complete the investigation until next year.

The panel has not yet set out how much reimbursement the mining giant will have to pay to indigenous Australians, but noted that “there is still a long way to go” before the damage was repaired.

“Rio Tinto must now translate his words into action,” it said.

In September, anger over the site’s destruction forced Rio Tinto CEO Jean-Sebastien Jacques to announce his resignation, although he will not officially step down until March 2021. Two other executives also had to resign.

In a statement on Wednesday, Rio Tinto said it “recognized” the report and “reiterated its apology” to the indigenous peoples, adding that destruction “should not have occurred”.

“We know the destruction of the Juukan rock shelters caused significant pain to the people of Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura, and we are working very hard to help them remediate,” said Simon Thompson, chairman of Rio Tinto.

Experts said significant legislative reforms are needed to ensure that such destruction does not happen again. A bill to delete section 18 is currently being publicly consulted.

“The research has revealed the overwhelming challenges faced by First Nations peoples mining their land,” wrote Deanna Kemp, John Owen and Rodger Barnes of the University of Queensland Mining Social Responsibility Center in The Conversation. “It underscores the urgent need for a balance of power to avoid mining production priorities dominating at the expense of everyone else.”

Scientists said their research found that community relations and indigenous affairs teams’ work on mine planning and production remained “peripheral”, while staff with a limited understanding of common land issues dominated the discussion of land access and cultural heritage.

They found that after the Jukaan Gorge, companies had made more efforts to strengthen communities and heritage teams, but more needed to be done.

“Social specialists and indigenous peoples must hold positions of authority and internal influence to curb corporate self-interest,” they wrote.

It is estimated that Rio Tinto is valued at $ 123 billion. The company is also facing multiple allegations of corruption and environmental degradation in other parts of the world, including China and Papua New Guinea, as well as the United States.

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