Wednesday 9 December 2020 9:43 am

Rio Tinto should pay reparations for sacred cave destruction, inquiry finds

Mining giant Rio Tinto should pay reparations to indigenous Australians for the destruction of two sacred caves, an inquiry into the incident has found.

The FTSE 100 company has been the subject of fierce criticism since it decided to destroy the 46,000-year old Jukkan Gorge site in Western Australia in order to expand an iron ore mine over the summer.

Read more: Rio Tinto could destroy another 124 Aboriginal sites

Now a report released by the inquiry panel has found that the miner should ensure a full reconstruction of the rock shelters at its own expense.

It also laid out broader industry guidance that included reviewing consent practices and a moratorium on mining in the affected places.

“Rio Tinto’s conduct reflects a corporate culture which prioritized commercial gain over the kind of meaningful engagement with Traditional Owners that should form a critical part of their social license to operate”, it said.

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But the report did not specify what sort of financial restitution Rio Tinto should pay to the indigenous Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people, the traditional land owners.

The inquiry hopes to release a full report into the incident in the second half of 2021.

Rio Tinto’s chief executive has already taken the decision to step down as a result of destruction.

Read more: Rio Tinto boss steps down after Aboriginal cave blast

Jean-Sebastien Jacques will remain in his role until the appointment of his successor or 31 March 2021, whichever is earlier, the company said in September.