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15 Jul 2020

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Corporate Human Rights Benchmark

CHRB response to the destruction of a 46,000-year-old Aboriginal heritage site by Rio Tinto at Juukan Gorge in Western Australia on 24 May 2020

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9 July 2020

Due to the destruction of a 46,000-year-old Aboriginal heritage site by Rio Tinto at Juukan Gorge in Western Australia on 24 May 2020, the Corporate Human Rights Benchmark (CHRB) and the World Benchmarking Alliance (WBA) have decided to append this statement to Rio Tinto’s latest CHRB results.

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It would be inappropriate for CHRB to continue to assess and rank Rio Tinto in one of the highest-scoring bands and as the top mining company without reference to this incident. [...]

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Since the publication of the first Benchmark in 2017, Rio Tinto has consistently ranked amongst the top scoring companies, with an initial score of 63% which went up to 76% in 2018 and was subsequently maintained in 2019. The destruction of the Aboriginal heritage site is in stark contradiction with these high scores and is an extremely concerning departure from the company’s public commitment to respect human rights (indicator A.1.1), including to free, prior and informed consent (indicator A.1.3), its commitment to engage with (potentially affected) stakeholders (indicator A.1.4) and its statements that it undertakes due diligence in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (indicators B.2.1-B.2.5). The incident at Juukan Gorge also highlights the possibility of a concerning disconnect between a company’s commitments and procedures as described in public disclosures on the one hand, and its actual decisions and impacts on the other hand.

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Following the destruction at Juukan Gorge, CHRB understands that Rio Tinto has launched a board-led review of its heritage management processes. For the review to be fair and credible, it will be crucial for it to be transparent, co-designed with the affected communities and independent, to avoid conflicts of interest. [...]

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