Tom Price sunset

Juukan Gorge

We deeply regret the events at Juukan Gorge and have unreservedly apologised to the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura (PKKP) people. The destruction of the rock shelters should not have happened and it does not reflect the values to which we aspire. We are absolutely committed to listening, learning and changing.

We participated in the Inquiry by the Joint Standing Committee on Northern Australia and will review the committee’s recommendations – contained in the interim report published on 9 December. 

Since the destruction of the rock shelters, we have worked with the PKKP and taken initial steps in rebuilding our relationship.

PKKP in co-operation with Rio Tinto have been involved in remedial works at Juukan Gorge. These works will continue. 

A joint session of the PKKP and Rio Tinto boards has been held to reaffirm Rio Tinto’s apology and commitment to rebuilding our relationship.

In addition, we will prepare a Heads of Agreement that will capture our commitments and outline how both Rio Tinto and PKKP will work together. While there has been some important progress made in the relationship so far, we are not underestimating the time it will take to genuinely work together and achieve the mutual objectives of this partnership. 

In the meantime, we have introduced changes to ensure heritage sites of exceptional significance, like the Juukan Gorge rockshelters, are protected and preserved. These include: 

  • Reassessing all activities which have the potential to impact heritage sites, with an immediate focus on locations that could be impacted over the next 18 to 24 months. We will continue to review mine plans to ensure the protection of sites of exceptional cultural value and have increased monitoring of operational impacts that have the potential to impact heritage sites
  • Executive accountability for impacts to heritage sites where avoidance is not possible. This includes enhanced governance with all approvals to impact sites directly or indirectly made on a risk-managed basis by Rio Tinto Iron Ore chief executive. Where appropriate, decisions will be referred to the recently established Heritage Sub-Committee of the Rio Tinto Executive Committee and to the Board.
  • A commitment to modernise our agreements with Traditional Owners. This will take time to ensure the process involves meaningful participation of Traditional Owners. In the meantime, we continue to work with Traditional Owners under existing agreements and have:
  • increased engagement regarding current and proposed plans for mining activities
  • confirmed that Traditional Owners are not restricted from raising concerns about cultural heritage matters with anyone, or from applying for statutory protection of any cultural heritage sites
  • introduced mechanisms into our approach to respond better to new information that may emerge about cultural heritage sites
  • committed to realising more impactful economic and social benefits
  • The creation of a new standalone Communities and Social Performance Area of Expertise, which is aligned with the existing Health, Safety, Environment (HSE) functions, reporting to Mark Davies, Group Executive Safety, Technical and Projects and a member of the Executive Committee. In addition, we have strengthened the operational leadership of relationships with Traditional Owners and we are strengthening our business-wide cultural competency programme to build awareness and understanding.
  • A $50 million investment to increase employment opportunities for Indigenous Australians through our business and enhance Indigenous leadership in our Australian operations.
  • The creation of a new role, appointing a senior Indigenous leader as chief advisor, Indigenous Affairs who has a direct reporting line to the chief executive. This role is responsible for facilitating discussions with Traditional Owners.
  • Ongoing consultation with Traditional Owners about a proposal to establish an Indigenous Advisory Group to help the company better incorporate Traditional Owners’ views and concerns into our operations.

We know we cannot change the past, but we are absolutely committed to doing better in the future.

Rio Tinto’s position on recommendations issued by the Joint Standing Committee on Northern Australia

Our positions on Recommendation 1, as at 16 December 2020. 

Australian Parliamentary Inquiry into the Destruction of the Rockshelters at the Juukan Gorge in the Pilbara region of Western Australia

On 31 July we made our submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Northern Australia. This submission may be found below.

On 7 August we appeared before the Inquiry, and took some questions on notice. We submitted our answers and a number of additional points to the Inquiry on 3 September. These may be found below.

On 16 October we appeared before the Inquiry for a second time, and took some questions on notice. We submitted our answers and a number of additional points to the Inquiry on 6 November. These may be found below.

On 3 November the Inquiry Committee visited the Juukan Gorge site. Further questions on notice were taken and our answers submitted to the Inquiry on 20 November. These can be found below.

Rio Tinto Board Review

The Rio Tinto Board of Directors conducted a review of our cultural heritage management processes, procedures, reporting and governance.  

The full findings of the review may be found below. The media release may be found here.

Key Statements on Juukan Gorge

  • Statement on Juukan Gorge: 12 June 2020
    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). 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.

    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 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.

    We believe the mining industry has a critical role to play in contributing to the future prosperity of all Australians.

    Jean-Sebastien Jacques, Chief Executive

  • Statement on Juukan Gorge: 31 May 2020
    We pay our respects to the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura People (PKKP), and we are sorry for the distress we have caused. Our relationship with the PKKP matters a lot to Rio Tinto, having worked together for many years.

    We have operated on PKKP country under a comprehensive and mutually agreed Participation Agreement since 2011.

    At Juukan, in partnership with the PKKP, we followed a heritage approval process for more than 10 years. In 2014 we performed a large-scale exercise in the Juukan area to preserve significant cultural heritage artefacts, recovering approximately 7,000 objects.

    We will continue to work with the PKKP to learn from what has taken place and strengthen our partnership. As a matter of urgency, we are reviewing the plans of all other sites in the Juukan Gorge area.

    From a broader perspective, as we already work within all existing frameworks, we will launch a comprehensive review of our heritage approach, engaging Traditional Owners to help identify, understand and recommend ways to improve the process.

    Three decades ago we were the first mining company to recognise native title. Today we also recognise that a review is needed in relation to the management of heritage in Western Australia more broadly, and we will advocate where relevant for legislative reform.

    The mining industry supports all Australians by providing jobs, supporting small business, and paying taxes and royalties. We remain committed to doing so in a way that provides economic development opportunities and facilitates the preservation and sharing of traditional culture.

    As a company with strong ties and a long history of partnership with Indigenous Australians we are committed to updating our practices and working together so that we can co-exist for mutual benefit.

    Chris Salisbury, Chief Executive, Iron Ore

  • Statement on Juukan Gorge: 27 May 2020

    Working with the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura People

    Rio Tinto takes cultural heritage and partnerships with Traditional Owner groups very seriously. We were the first mining company in Australia to embrace Traditional Owners’ native title rights and interests, and we have a long history of recognising and working to safeguard areas of cultural significance.

    We have had a longstanding relationship with the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura People for over two decades and have been working together on the Juukan area since 2003, which includes having secured the necessary approvals for mining activity in consultation with the PKKP.

    Chris Salisbury, Chief Executive, Iron Ore

    The PKKP and Rio Tinto signed a comprehensive native title and heritage agreement in 2011, providing for ongoing engagement as well as financial and non-financial benefits to the PKKP for mining activities on their country.

    The mining activity conducted in May 2020 was undertaken in accordance with all necessary approvals. It was preceded by a ministerial consent under Section 18 of the Aboriginal Heritage Act. This was obtained in 2013 after detailed consultation with the PKKP people over a decade that included research investigations in 2008 under a Section 16 authorisation. Following the Section 18 consent extensive heritage preservation and salvage work was undertaken in 2014, all with PKKP involvement.

    With the approval of the PKKP, the preserved artefacts have been deposited at a Rio Tinto storage facility to ensure appropriate protection of the material and we are working with the PKKP on longer-term options. We have continued to work closely and collaboratively with the PKKP on a range of heritage matters, including operations in the Juukan area, and have modified our operations to avoid cultural and heritage impacts. From 2014, the PKKP and Rio Tinto continued dialogue on the Juukan region, including discussion on the findings from the specialist studies that were conducted on the excavated materials. This included a site visit to the Brockman 4 operations with PKKP people in 2019.

    We proceeded with our operations at Brockman 4 in reliance of our comprehensive agreement with the PKKP and having all necessary approvals and consents.

    We are sorry that the recently expressed concerns of the PKKP did not arise through the engagements that have taken place over many years under the agreement that governs our operations on their country. To support thorough engagement on these issues, we have a range of formal avenues in place, which go beyond legal requirements. These activities support ongoing dialogue and engagement to occur as part of these processes on cultural heritage.

    We will continue to work with the PKKP, Traditional Owner groups, government and industry on reform in this area.