Rio Tinto is to create a foundation to support cultural projects in Western Australia, as it seeks to heal its reputation following the fallout of the Juukan Gorge controversy.
The mining giant has agreed with traditional landowners within the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura (PKKP) Aboriginal Corporation that it will fund “major cultural and social projects”, including a new keeping place for storage of important cultural materials.
The PKKP have requested that Rio Tinto does not disclose the financial terms of the agreement.
Juukan Gorge, a sacred, ancient cave system in Pilbara had shown continuous signs of human activity for more than 46,000 years – but was destroyed in 2020 for sitting atop £75m worth of high-grade iron ore.
In a statement today, Rio Tinto boss Jakob Stausholm said: “We fell far short of our values as a company and breached the trust placed in us by the PKKP people by allowing the destruction of the Juukan Gorge rock shelters.
“As we work hard to rebuild our relationship, I would like to thank the PKKP people, their elders, and the Corporation for their guidance and leadership in forming this important agreement.”
A parliamentary inquiry in 2020 found the mining giant to have gone against the wishes of traditional landowners despite knowing of the cultural and archaeological value.
The report said: “Rio knew the value of what they were destroying but blew it up anyway.”
The company has undergone a C-suite overhaul since, with Stausholm taking the helm at the beginning of last year with a mission to “restore trust” in the miner.