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Article

9 Dec 2020

Author:
Isabella Higgins, ABC News

Rio Tinto should pay compensation for Juukan Gorge caves blast, inquiry recommends

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9 December 2020

Mining giant Rio Tinto should pay compensation to traditional owners for destroying the sacred Juukan Gorge caves, a parliamentary inquiry has recommended.

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It made seven recommendations in an interim report released on Wednesday that called for actions from Rio Tinto, the West Australian Government, the Commonwealth and all other mining companies.

"The [traditional owners] faced a perfect storm, with no support or protection from anywhere," the report said.

The inquiry recommended Rio Tinto work with traditional owners to reconstruct the ancient structure, especially an adjoining water system.

It also called for a moratorium of all mining in the area, as well as recommending the company review its internal procedures in managing Indigenous heritage matters.

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The PKKP told their side of the story to the inquiry, describing the "immeasurable cultural and spiritual loss" felt from the blast.

Their submission also described the incident as a "shocking act of corporate vandalism to our very sacred site".

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In a statement, Rio Tinto said it welcomed the opportunity to participate in the committee's inquiry and would review the recommendations in the coming days.

Rio Tinto chairman Simon Thompson said the company recognised the destruction of the Juukan rockshelters caused significant pain to the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people (PKKP).

"As a business, we are committed to learning from this event to ensure the destruction of heritage sites of such exceptional archaeological and cultural significance never occurs again.

"We have made important changes to the way we manage cultural heritage sites and our relationships with Traditional Owners, including a commitment to modernise our agreements.

"We recognise the importance of ensuring relationships with Traditional Owners are built on partnerships based on mutual benefit, respect and trust."

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