Rio Tinto ‘misled’ Juukan Gorge inquiry and ‘cannot plead ignorance’ as a defence, committee chair says | Rio Tinto

The chair of a parliamentary committee analyzing Rio Tinto’s destruction of 46,000-year-old rock shelters at Juukan Gorge within the Pilbara says the corporate seems to have misled the inquiry.

“It’s laborious to argue that we’ve not been misled by Rio Tinto’s proof to the inquiry once you have a look at what was stated along with the paperwork the corporate has offered on discover,” Queensland LNP MP Warren Entsch informed Guardian Australia.

“It’s a profound assertion to say that senior executives didn’t know when the corporate has been conscious because the early 2000s of the importance of the caves.”

Entsch’s assault got here because the parliamentary inquiry was pressured to indefinitely delay a deliberate web site go to to Juukan Gorge – a call the normal homeowners, the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura (PKKP) individuals, stated would “rob us of a voice within the proceedings”.

The chair’s feedback add to pressure from buyers and activists for the board of Rio Tinto, which is believed to be assembly this week, to sack chief govt Jean-Sébastien Jacques over the Juukan Gorge debacle.

“In case you have a look at Jacques’ responses to the inquiry it’s laborious to come back to another conclusion [than it has been misled],” Entsch stated. He additionally warned different mining firms that they had been on discover concerning the significance of defending Indigenous heritage websites.

“Utilizing the instance of Rio Tinto, they’d be very, very cautious, or be very, very silly to barge forward on mining now, they will’t plead ignorance as a defence,” he stated. “There’s a whole lot of worldwide consideration on this, and corporations would train warning underneath these circumstances.”

The 2 rock shelters had been blown up by Rio Tinto on 24 May as part of the expansion of the Brockman 4 iron ore mine in Western Australia’s Pilbara area.

An archeological survey, paid for by Rio, discovered that one of many shelters had been regularly occupied over 46,000 years and was of the “highest archeological significance in Australia”.

The total significance of the positioning emerged after Rio Tinto acquired permission from the WA authorities in 2013 to destroy the websites. An inside evaluate discovered that regardless of receiving the preliminary archeological report in 2014, the complete archaeological report in 2018, and two additional ethnographic stories detailing the importance of the positioning to the PKKP peoples, nobody at Rio flagged it as a possible danger.

Jacques told the parliamentary inquiry into the destruction of the sites that he was knowledgeable, three days earlier than the blast, of a “potential subject” on the Brockman four iron ore mine within the Hammersley ranges.

However he stated he didn’t study the importance of the Juukan Gorge rock shelters till the evening of Sunday 24 Might – after they’ve been destroyed.

Entsch stated Rio Tinto’s stories on Juukan Gorge weren’t accomplished with “petty money”.

“Archaeological surveys are very, very substantial issues,” he stated. “Rio then funded a doco on the importance of the caves, that includes the PKKP. I don’t know, I haven’t made a doco, but it surely prices a bit greater than tea cash. Any individual should have written the cheque, it wouldn’t have been out of the tea cash.”

“I chair a committee right here that has representatives throughout the political spectrum, and the committee is as one, we’re as one on coping with this and attending to the underside of it.”

In the meantime, the chair of the PKKP Aboriginal company, John Ashburton, stated that the choice to delay on-country hearings due to coronavirus journey restrictions would lengthen the investigation which “solely serves to additional deepen our harm and anguish”.

“This determination serves to rob us of a voice within the proceedings,” chair John Ashburton stated. “To this point, Rio Tinto and others have been given a voice and public stage to current their views on the catastrophe. The identical courtesy has been denied to us by this delay.”

The deadline for the inquiry to make its remaining report has been pushed again from 30 September to 9 December.

“The neighborhood deserves the complete details of the Juukan Gorge catastrophe be informed in a well timed method to make sure this sort of tragedy by no means occurs once more,” Ashburton stated.

The Nationwide Native Title Council (NNTC) earlier joined requires an overhaul of the Rio Tinto board to incorporate extra Australian administrators.

In a letter to chairman Simon Thompson, NNTC chief govt Jamie Lowe stated Rio Tinto’s look earlier than the Senate inquiry and its roundly criticised inside evaluate confirmed the corporate had misled the general public by blaming failures in “linked-up determination making” for the destruction of an historic place.

Lowe stated Rio made “energetic choices” to assist the blast going forward, like hiring attorneys towards a possible injunction.

“It’s now clear that what led to the catastrophic destruction of Juukan Gorge was not a results of a breakdown of procedures however a results of the big cultural and values deficit inside Rio Tinto,” he stated.

All through his proof to the parliamentary inquiry, and within the 84-page response to questions on notice provided last week, Jacques appeared to place the blame for his ignorance of the potential ramifications of destroying such a heritage-listed web site towards the desires of conventional homeowners again on Perth-based chief govt of iron ore, Chris Salisbury.

He stated that when he spoke to Salisbury previous to the blast “there was no point out of the cultural heritage subject, the difficulty was a query of timing and a request by the PKKP”.

The minutes of two conferences held within the days earlier than the blast present Salisbury was involved not about damaging Juukan Gorge but about the potential legal risk of damaging other Aboriginal heritage sites, which the corporate didn’t have permission from the Western Australian authorities to disturb.

Rio’s initial public response stated it had “all obligatory approvals” to destroy the positioning and was “sorry that the lately expressed considerations of the PKKP didn’t come up by the engagements which have taken place over a few years”.

It moved to supply a real apology just a few weeks later after a backlash from buyers. Rankings company S&P stated the Juukan Gorge saga, along with controversy over plans by BHP and Fortescue Metals Group to blast heritage websites, “highlights the truth that social danger elements transcend authorized obligations”.

“Any firm seeking to develop a brand new challenge or broaden an present one might want to guarantee all stakeholders are glad – above and past what authorities laws stipulates you possibly can or can not do,” the S&P international rankings director, Minh Hoang, stated.

“A significant investor sitting in London is much less within the efficacy or in any other case of native authorities laws on the opposite facet of the world. However rightly or wrongly, the investor can be involved about how issues ‘look’ to the broader market and neighborhood.”

S&P thinks this might lead to mining initiatives taking longer to get began.

“Mining firms will undoubtedly be circumspect when growing initiatives. They’ll look to work with native communities to keep away from necessary heritage websites; they won’t need to incur investor wrath.”