PERTH (miningweekly.com) – Diversified major Rio Tinto has taken note of the federal government’s efforts to co-design stronger laws to give better protection to Aboriginal cultural heritage sites, noting that the company had been working hard to restore its relationship with Traditional Owners.
“Since the tragic events of May 2020, we have been tirelessly focused on changing the way we engage and work in partnership with Indigenous communities, to protect and preserve cultural heritage,” Rio Tinto CEO Jakob Stausholm said, referring to the destruction of rock shelters in Juukan Gorge on the land of the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people (PKKP) in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.
“We acknowledge [the] announcement and will explore the government’s response to the report’s recommendations in detail, as we continue to strive to be the best partner we can be, and play an active role in ensuring heritage sites of exceptional significance are protected.”
Environment and Water Minister Tanya Plibersek this week signed a partnership agreement with the First Nations Heritage Protection Alliance to jointly design legislation to prevent further damages to culturally significant sites.
Plibersek said that the government would adopt seven of the eight recommendations made in a 2021 report by the Australian Parliament’s Northern Australia Committee, and was working through the final recommendation with the Alliance to decide which Minister would ultimately be responsible for cultural heritage protection.
Stausholm has meanwhile pointed out that since the fateful events of 2020, Rio has been working to rebuild its relationship with Traditional Owners, with its remediation efforts including continuous efforts to work towards remedying and rebuilding its relationship with the PKKP people and on the remediation of the Juukan Gorge rock shelters, supporting the strengthening of cultural heritage legislation at both state and Commonwealth levels, shifting to a model of co-management to enhance the protection of heritage and providing better outcomes for Indigenous peoples and its business.
The company is also revising internal standards, improving risk management systems and strengthening assurance processes, and changing its culture and processes to ensure Traditional Owner views are understood at all stages of the mine life.