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Anti-mining activists force proponent to repeatedly apologise for explosion

Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura Aboriginal Corporation
Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura Aboriginal Corporation

Anti-resources protestors have compelled a mining giant to say sorry multiple times after the proponent allegedly destroyed two ancient Aboriginal sites to make way for a metal mine expansion in Western Australia’s Pilbara.

The Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura (PKKP) Aboriginal Corporation recently pressured Rio Tinto to repeatedly apologise for detonating two ancient deep-time rock shelters, which contained artefacts estimated to be 46,000-years-old, for the Brockman 4 Iron Ore Expansion – 55km northwest of Tom Price.

‘Very sorry’ again

“We are very sorry for the distress we have caused the PKKP in relation to Juukan Gorge and our first priority remains rebuilding trust with the PKKP,” Rio chief executive Jean-Sebastien Jacques said in a public statement.

“Rio Tinto has a long history of working in partnership and creating shared value with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities around our operations and across Australia more broadly. We remain absolutely committed to continuing to do so.”

Inquiry coming

Rio will face further scrutiny at a federal investigation into the destruction where it will likely have to apologise many more times.

“Rio Tinto will fully cooperate with the Inquiry by the Joint Standing Committee on Northern Australia while also continuing to support the West Australian Government in the reform of the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972 (WA),” Jacques said.

“We are committed to engaging with the rest of the industry, traditional owner groups, and federal and state governments across a number of areas relating to cultural heritage approvals and processes, and the broad contribution of the resources sector to Australia.”

Not good enough

However, activists are still not satisfied and do not believe the proponent is sincerely sorry for the explosion, even though all the necessary regulatory approvals were granted back in 2013. They produced what was claimed to be a secret recording of Rio iron ore chief executive Chris Salisbury clarifying the apology was only for the distress and not the destruction.

“We have not apologised for the event itself per se but apologised for the distress the event caused,” he said according to the Australian Associated Press (AAP).

PKKP now wants the proponent to sincerely apologise for the destruction.

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“[The recording] raises questions relating to the sincerity of Rio Tinto’s apologies,” the group said according to AAP.

“We will be addressing this matter with Rio Tinto so as to ensure transparency and trust in our conversations as we continue to determine the way forward.”

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