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6 Aug 2020

Karen Michelmore, ABC News

Rio Tinto didn't tell traditional owners there were options to save ancient Juukan Gorge rock shelters

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7 August 2020

Rio Tinto has admitted it did not tell traditional owners there were four options for blasting at Juukan Gorge, three of which did not involve the destruction of highly significant ancient rock shelters.


"The PKKP was not made aware that four options were available in 2012 and 2013," Rio Tinto CEO Jean-Sebastien Jacques told the hearing.

"At the relevant meeting in 2013, only one option was presented to the PKKP — and that was the basis of the submission for the section 18."


The hearing was told "the point of no return" for the blasting was May 13 when hundreds of charges were laid at the site.

Rio Tinto's CEO of iron ore Chris Salisbury said "it was obvious" the company could not remove the 66 tonnes of high explosives already laid.

However, in a 10-hour operation on May 23, it did manage to remove seven charges to prevent the destruction of other sites of significance identified by the PKKP further down the gorge.

In a statement, PKKP spokesperson Burchell Hayes said Rio Tinto's submission to the inquiry had "only served to deepen the anguish" of the traditional owners.