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Rio Tinto issues apology for sacred site blast

Kitco News

Mining giant is seeking forgiveness after a mining blast reportedly destroyed one of the oldest known Aboriginal heritage sites in Western Australia.

Rio Tinto was given permission to carry out the blasts back 2013 under Section 18 of the WA Aboriginal Heritage Act to expand its iron ore mine in Western Pilbara. Last month Rio Tinto detonated explosives near the Juukan Gorge caves — culturally significant sites that date back more than 46,000 years.

The blast and consequent damage was widely reported.

Rio Tinto Iron Ore chief executive Chris Salisbury expressed sorrow for the blast.

"We pay our respects to the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura People (PKKP), and we are sorry for the distress we have caused. Our relationship with the PKKP matters a lot to Rio Tinto, having worked together for many years," said Salisbury in a news release.

“We have operated on PKKP country under a comprehensive and mutually agreed Participation Agreement since 2011. At Juukan, in partnership with the PKKP, we followed a heritage approval process for more than 10 years. In 2014 we performed a large-scale exercise in the Juukan area to preserve significant cultural heritage artefacts, recovering approximately 7,000 objects."

Going forward Salisbury said the company is committed to updating its practices for benefit of affected communities.

“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."

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