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21 Jun 2020

Deanna Kemp, Andrew Hopkins & John Owen, The Conversation

How Rio Tinto can ensure its Aboriginal heritage review is transparent and independent

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22 June 2020

Rio Tinto has committed to an internal review of its heritage management processes in the wake of its destruction of a 46,000-year-old Aboriginal heritage site....

The credibility of the process hinges on a number of other factors, as well. These include the scope of the review, how it will be conducted, what will be disclosed publicly and who will be protected, and how will the company will respond to the review recommendations.


Here are our recommendations for what Rio Tinto needs to do to ensure its inquiry is fair and transparent:

1.) Ensure the review is conducted independently and avoids conflicts of interest.

2.) Appoint a review secretariat to guarantee a confidential avenue for informants to contribute evidence and testimony, at arms length from the company.

3.) The scope should be co-designed with impacted parties – in this case, the Puutu Kunti Kurama and Pinikura peoples – and include a process for stakeholders to track the review and the company's response.

4.) The scope should include the systems and structures of Rio Tinto PLC, and not be limited to Rio Tinto Iron Ore.

5.) The review should focus on identifying systemic and structural issues within the organisation, and making recommendations for improvement, rather than seeking to assign blame to individuals.

6.) Interview transcripts, field reports and other evidence should be made accessible to the public (for example, via a dedicated website), where they are not deemed confidential or commercial in confidence.

7.) The chair should have unfettered access to advisers and experts of their choosing in matters relating to the review.

8.) The chair should issue a public report at the conclusion of the process.


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