Rio Tinto seals heritage protection plan for iron ore project

As it looks to guard against a repeat of the 2020 destruction of a sacred site at Juukan Gorge. 
Image: Ian Waldie/Bloomberg

Rio Tinto Group, the world’s top iron ore producer, has agreed a heritage protection plan with an indigenous landowner group for a project in Western Australia, as it looks to guard against a repeat of the 2020 destruction of a sacred site at Juukan Gorge.

The agreement with the Yinhawangka Aboriginal Corporation will ensure that significant social and cultural heritage values are protected as part of the proposed development of the Western Range iron ore project in the Pilbara region, Rio said in a statement. Decisions on environmental matters, mine planning and closure will be made jointly with the Yinhawangka people.

The announcement comes as the London-based company still deals with the fallout of the destruction of 46 000-year-old rock shelters at Juukan Gorge, which saw the departure of several top executives, including former chief executive officer Jean-Sebastien Jacques. It also led to a national inquiry into the resources sector’s management of culturally-significant sites.

“We know we haven’t always got this right in the past,” Simon Trott, head of Rio’s iron ore business, said in the statement. “We have learned and continue to learn a lot from this co-designed process which is the manner in which we want to work with all Traditional Owners.”

© 2022 Bloomberg

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