Lessons learned from Juukan Gorge
The destruction of two ancient rock shelters in the Juukan Gorge represented a breach of our partners’ trust and a failure to uphold our values as a company.
Internal and external reviews of the events leading up to the destruction of the rock shelters at Juukan Gorge have highlighted deficiencies in how our partnerships with Traditional Owner groups were managed, a lack of integration of our heritage management with our front-line operational teams, and a work culture that was too focused on business performance and not enough on building and maintaining relationships with Traditional Owners.
A review published by the Rio Tinto Board of Directors in August 2020 identified a series of systemic failures of our communities and heritage management processes at Brockman 4 over an extended period of time. The full review can be found below.
Both the Board Review and the Inquiry of the Joint Standing Committee on Northern Australia (the Parliamentary Inquiry) made it clear that the events at Juukan Gorge represented a breach of our partners’ trust and a failure to uphold our values as a company.
In 2021, the Board conducted a joint exercise with the Executive Committee to learn the lessons from the destruction of the rock shelters at Juukan Gorge, and the Group’s response to the tragic events. In addition to strengthening crisis management and communications, the key learnings which the Board and Executive team are committed to addressing are:
- Promoting an inclusive, open and transparent culture that empowers people to raise and escalate concerns on operational and ethical issues
- Applying a more values-driven approach to guide decision making. Our new values of care, courage and curiosity, support these desired behaviours
The Board is determined to learn the lessons to ensure that the destruction of a site of exceptional cultural significance never happens again.
The oversight role of our Sustainability Committee
The Sustainability Committee supports the Board in ensuring Rio Tinto delivers a strong business performance on a sustainable basis that builds trust with our people, our partners and stakeholders and with wider society.
Internal and external reviews of the events leading to the blasting of the rock shelters at Juukan Gorge have identified various deficiencies including how our partnership with the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people was managed, a lack of integration of our heritage management with our front-line operational teams, and a work culture that was too focused on business performance and not enough on building and maintaining relationships with Traditional Owners.
The archaeological and ethnographic reports received in 2013-14 should have triggered an internal review of the implications of this material new information for the mine development plans. Such a review did not take place. Following the completion of the archaeological surveys and other mitigation measures agreed with the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people in 2014, the site was reclassified as ‘cleared’ for mining and removed from relevant risk registers. As a consequence, knowledge and awareness of the location and significance of the site was progressively lost. Further opportunities to revise the mine plan were missed in 2018, when the final archaeological report was received, and again during 2019-20.
The Sustainability Committee has been charged with overseeing the implementation of the recommendations set out in the Board Review and Parliamentary Inquiry, and with ensuring that these lessons are applied to our operations across Australia and the globe.
Our new Integrated Heritage Management Process
In Iron Ore, our Integrated Heritage Management Process (IHMP) ensures heritage considerations are embedded throughout the mine development process, from early resource planning and studies through to closure. By the end of 2021, we reviewed over 2,200 heritage sites in the Pilbara, adding further protection controls. Through ongoing consultation with Traditional Owners, we have removed 100 million dry tonnes of iron ore from reserves in 2020 and 2021 through this process. The core principles from IHMP have informed the Cultural Heritage Group Procedure update and our cultural heritage global control library, and we continue to explore opportunities to embed these across the business.
Final report into the destruction of Indigenous heritage sites at Juukan Gorge, issued by the Joint Standing Committee on Northern Australia
17 October 2021
Latest Juukan Gorge releases
PKKP and Rio Tinto to create Juukan Gorge Legacy Foundation
MELBOURNE, Australia--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- The Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura (PKKP) Aboriginal Corporation and Rio Tinto have agreed to create the Juukan Gorge Legacy Foundation after signing a remedy agreement regarding the tragic destruction of two ancient rock shelters at Juukan Gorge in the Pilbara region of Western Australia in 2020. In accordance with the right to self-determination, th
Rio Tinto Statement on Joint Standing Committee on Northern Australia Report
MELBOURNE, Australia--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- Rio Tinto welcomes the final report of the Joint Standing Committee on Northern Australia following its inquiry into the destruction of rock shelters at Juukan Gorge on the land of the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people (PKKP) in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. Rio Tinto Chief Executive Jakob Stausholm said “We have been working hard to re
Joint statement from PKKP and Rio Tinto
Rio Tinto accepts that it should have communicated the recent executive changes to the PKKP in a more collaborative way.
Statement on Juukan Gorge: 12 June 2020Rio 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 2020We 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 PeopleRio 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.