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3 Aug 2020

Calla Wahlquist & Lorena Allam, The Guardian

Rio Tinto blew up Juukan Gorge rock shelters 'to access higher volumes of high-grade ore'

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4 August 2020

Rio Tinto could have chosen one of three options to expand its iron ore mine that would not have damaged a 46,000-year-old highly significant Aboriginal heritage site in Juukan Gorge, but chose a fourth option that did damage the rock shelters “in order to access higher volumes of high-grade ore”.

In a submission to a Senate inquiry on the destruction of the Juukan Gorge rock shelters, Rio Tinto acknowledged that “various opportunities were missed to re-evaluate the mine plan in light of this material new information” on the significance of one of the sites.


In their 46-page submission, Rio Tinto said the company had drilled 382 blast holes and loaded them with explosives by 13 May, the day before the PKKP learned of the upcoming destruction. They said they engaged an independent expert to see if the blast holes could be safely unloaded, but that a management committee, including the iron ore chief executive, Chris Salisbury, “did not consider it feasible to remove the shot from the holes to protect Juukan 1 and Juukan 2”.