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4 Jun 2020

Nick Toscano, The Sydney Morning Herald

Rio Tinto feels more heat on cave blast as investor pressure rises

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3 June 2020

One of Rio Tinto's largest shareholders says the mining giant's destruction of ancient rock shelters in Western Australia calls into question the company's commitment to doing what is right, not just what is legal.

...Aberdeen Standard Investments, the seventh-biggest holder of Rio's London stock, said the destruction was deeply concerning and raised questions about the adequacy of the company's governance, community engagement and policies surrounding significant sites.

"We are really saddened and deeply concerned about what happened," Aberdeen investment manager Camille Simeon [said]....

"It raises the question around doing what is legal versus doing what is right. It does appear to have been legal but is it the right thing to do, to destroy something with such huge cultural significance?"

Ms Simeon said an apparent disconnect between Rio and the traditional owners pointed to a need for better community engagement. "We are going to continue engagement with the company on this," she said.


Another prominent Rio Tinto shareholder, Unisuper, has said the destruction of the site in the Juukan Gorge "saddens us" and assured its members it was seeking answers from the company.

"We understand that Rio Tinto works closely with archaeologists and local Indigenous groups to document and preserve many sites that may be impacted by their mining operations," Unisuper said in a note to members.

"It is our expectation that Rio Tinto had consent from the traditional owners prior to proceeding."

Unisuper said it had met with Rio Tinto representatives to emphasise the importance of protecting culturally significant sites. "We will continue to meet, both directly and through collaborative engagements, with the company to better understand what happened in this particular case and await the findings of a company investigation into this event, which will be done with the local traditional owners," Unisuper said.


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