Expansion of Pilbara mine threatens 60,000-year-old sacred site, inquiry hears
6 August 2020
Traditional owners in the Pilbara, whose lands are near those destroyed by Rio Tinto's blast at Juukan Gorge in May, say two ancient rock shelters – one of which is estimated to be at least 60,000 years old – are under threat at a site where Fortescue mining is planning expansion permitted under Western Australia's Aboriginal heritage laws.
In a submission to the Senate inquiry into Juukan Gorge, which will hold its first public hearing [...] the Wintawari Guruma Aboriginal Corporation (WGAC) said the two rock shelters contain evidence of use and occupation by humans dating back 47,800 years in one, and 60,000 years in the second.
Fortescue Mining Group (FMG), owned by Andrew "Twiggy" Forrest, had sought approval under s18 of WA's Aboriginal Heritage Act to destroy the first batch of several sites in the area to expand its operations.
But Fortescue CEO, Elizabeth Gaines said the WA Government has agreed to pause consideration of the s18 AHA application for two months, so additional consultation can occur.
Gaines said the company had previously agreed on a boundary around Spear Hill after working with Eastern Guruma people and Aboriginal heritage professionals nominated by WGAC, and "consequently designed our mining operations to stay outside of the agreed boundary".