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 rockshelters should not have happened, and we are absolutely committed to listening, learning and changing.

We have taken a number of actions to strengthen cultural heritage governance and controls, and commenced the longer-term process of regaining the trust of Traditional Owners.

On 13 October we wrote a letter to Traditional Owners in the Pilbara detailing that we will review all heritage disturbance in consultation with them; and shared our intention to modernise our agreements which includes modifying clauses to ensure respect, transparency and mutual benefit. Specifically, our high-level principles include:

  • Reassessing all activities which have the potential to impact heritage sites, with an immediate focus on those sites that could be impacted over the next 18 to 24 months.
  • Not enforcing any clauses that restrict Traditional Owners from raising concerns about cultural heritage matters with anyone, or any clauses that restrict Traditional Owners from applying for statutory protection of any cultural heritage sites.
  • Introducing mechanisms into our agreements to respond better to new information that may emerge about cultural heritage sites, including those affected by Section 18 approvals. We will seek to agree an appropriate mechanism in our revised agreements so that there is a clear path for resolution of any differences of view that may emerge.
  • Improving transparency of any revised agreement and more impactful realisation of economic and social benefits.

Other actions include:

  • We continue active engagement with the PKKP and have agreed a meeting between the Rio Tinto Board of Directors and the PKKP before the end of the year.
  • We have instituted an enhanced level of governance over the impact on sites of heritage significance. All approvals to disturb sites directly or indirectly are being made on a risk-managed basis at Rio Tinto Iron Ore chief executive level; referrals of decisions as appropriate will be directed to the recently established Heritage Sub-Committee of the Rio Tinto Executive Committee, and if necessary, to the Board.
  • We have established the Communities and Social Performance Area of Expertise, which is aligned with the existing Health, Safety, Environment (HSE) function, reporting to Mark Davies, group executive Safety, Technical and Projects and a member of the Executive Committee.
  • We have appointed a Chief Advisor, Indigenous Affairs who has a direct reporting line to our chief executive.
  • We have made a firm commitment to increase employment opportunities for Australian Indigenous Peoples in our business, and a $50 million investment to advance Indigenous leadership in our Australian business.
  • We continue to contribute to the reform of the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972 (WA). We support an appeal right in the Western Australian government’s Section 18 review process to give a greater voice to Traditional Owners in the decision-making in relation to mining on their land.

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

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.

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.

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.