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4 Jun 2020

Peter Ker, Financial Review

Kaboom! There goes Rio Tinto's reputation

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5 June 2020


Brand Finance, a marketing consultancy, estimates the global reaction has reduced the value of Rio's brand – which it calculates is worth $US3.3 billion ($4.8 billion) – by almost 5 per cent, or around $US160 million.


Prior to the destruction of the Juukan Gorge caves, Rio had been an industry leader when it came to Indigenous affairs.


...[T]he PKKP felt that archeological work in the gorge in 2014 revealed it to be more significant than was realised at the time of the 2011 agreement and the 2013 government approval.


Rio agrees the findings of those surveys were significant....

But Rio and PKKP disagree over whether the traditional owners formally told Rio they were opposed to the site being developed for mining in the wake of those 2014 discoveries.


But in a blow for Rio, the PKKP released a documentary made in 2015 that showed several PKKP members expressing sadness at the prospect of losing Juukan Gorge.


Rio has been well aware of the documentary and the sentiments within it for years. [...]


The blasting...may prove to be more significant for the impact it has on Rio's plan to develop North America's biggest copper mine in a part of Arizona that is sacred and spiritual for the Indigenous Apache people.


The Juukan Gorge controversy will not help Rio convince the American public that it will be a trustworthy custodian of Oak Flat.


But Bruce Harvey, who served as Rio's global practice leader for community and social performance between 2005 and 2013...believes there will be no quick fix to the events of the past fortnight.

"Reputation is based on consistent behaviour and performance over many years, not marketing and brand promotion. It will be a long road back for Rio Tinto," he says.

Part of the following timelines

Australia: Rio Tinto mining blast destroys ancient Aboriginal sacred site

Australia: Extractive companies’ projects threaten to destroy Aboriginal heritage sites