The shattered traditional owners of the culturally significant Juukan Gorge, the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura (PKKP), told the investigation this week that they were suffering from immense “mental, emotional and physical pain.”
Mr Jacques, along with Rio’s chief iron ore, Chris Salisbury, and chief corporate affairs officer, Simone Niven, resigned last month after investors commented on the destruction of the Juukan shelters and the board’s initially inadequate sanctions.
On Friday, the head of the country’s top mining lobby, the Minerals Council of Australia, denied Senator Dodson’s claims.
“The industry remains committed to these relationships.”
Ms. Constable said the industry group would lead a national program to share and embed lessons learned across the sector and support legislative reform.
“The MCA supports the modernization of Australia’s indigenous cultural heritage laws, including the Commonwealth-led process to assist states and areas where it is needed,” she said.
Rio’s iron ore shipments declined 5 percent to 82.1 million tons in the September quarter compared to the previous quarter, and the miner told investors on Friday that he expects exports of between 324 and 334 million tons of iron ore in 2020
It has also been warned that the process of re-establishing relationships with traditional owners across the Pilbara, which could include the suspension of all work that could affect significant locations, could slow production. However, it was not indicated how severe the increased focus on cultural heritage will be on overall iron ore production.
“The future potential impact of the reform of the WA Aboriginal Heritage Act of 1972 on operational and mine development and changes in our approach to heritage are unknown at this point in time,” the company said.
“We consult with traditional owners and work out scenarios with a wide range of options available given the flexibility in our Pilbara network.”
“I can only say once more how sorry we are,” said Jacques. “It should never have happened.”
Rio Tinto had legal permission to blast the site as part of an iron ore mine expansion in May and believed it had PKKP approval until officials reached out to the company once the charges were placed and could no longer be safely removed. However, in filing the investigation, Rio admitted that it missed several opportunities to reconsider its plans after archaeological digs in 2014 determined the site was of much greater archaeological importance than originally thought and was better off with the PKKP to deal with what this could have prevented the destruction.
Meanwhile, Rio Tinto has potential problems with another mining operation after being hit by a class-loss lawsuit at its giant copper-gold mine, Oyu Tolgoi, in Mongolia.
The lawsuit filed in the US accuses Rio Tinto and individual defendants, including Mr. Jacques, of making false and misleading statements about the cost and schedule of the troubled project. Rio’s longstanding plan to expand the Oyu Tolgoi mine – one of its key growth projects – has been fraught with a number of lengthy delays and cost savings since construction began in 2019. The project was originally supposed to cost less than $ 7 billion and is now likely to cost more than $ 9.5 billion.
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Economic reporter for The Age and Sydney Morning Herald.
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