(Alliance News) - Rio Tinto on Monday said it has agreed to create the Juukan Gorge Legacy Foundation after signing a remedy agreement for the destruction of two ancient rock shelters at Juukan Gorge in Western Australia by the miner in 2020.
Under the agreement with Puutu Kunti Kurrama & Pinikura Aboriginal Corp, Rio Tinto will provide financial support to the foundation to progress cultural and social projects including a new keeping place for storage of important cultural materials.
"In accordance with the right to self-determination, the agreement reflects the desire of the traditional owners to create a foundation that supports the cultural, social, educational and economic aspirations of the group. The foundation, to be led and controlled by traditional owners, will also enable the delivery of broader benefits through commercial partnership opportunities. Under the agreement, Rio Tinto will provide financial support to the foundation to progress major cultural and social projects including a new keeping place for storage of important cultural materials," the company said.
Rio Tinto Chief Executive Officer 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."
Last week, Rio Tinto "acknowledged" the Australian government's response to a report into the destruction of the rock shelters in Juukan Gorge.
In May 2020, Rio Tinto blasted the rock shelters in Western Australia's remote Pilbara region, destroying one of the earliest known sites occupied by Australia's indigenous people in order to expand its iron ore mine.
Speaking in the Australian parliament last Thursday, Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek quoted the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people's submission to the enquiry: "The Juukan Gorge disaster is a tragedy not only for our people. It is also a tragedy for the heritage of all Australians and indeed humanity as a whole.
"It is unthinkable that we would ever knowingly destroy Stonehenge, or the Egyptian pyramids, or the Lascaux caves in France," she said. "When the Bamiyan Buddhas were destroyed in Afghanistan, the world was rightly outraged. But that's precisely what occurred at the Juukan Gorge."
The Australian government will legislate for new protections for indigenous heritage sites, accepting all but one of the eight recommendations made in a report that was issued by the Joint Standing Committee on Northern Australia in October 2021.
Rio Tinto shares were down 1.1% to 5,318.00 pence each on Monday morning in London. They had closed down 1.4% in Sydney.
By Tom Budszus; firstname.lastname@example.org
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