One of the world’s largest mining companies, Rio Tinto, has destroyed another site of great importance to the cultural heritage and historical memory of Indigenous Australians. A few years ago, the company was hit by a similar scandal that attracted international attention: then, a 46,000-year-old indigenous protected site, a particularly important site from an archaeological point of view, was destroyed during the expansion of a mine.
Reuters According to his report On August 6, Rio Tinto, one of the world’s dominant mining companies, seriously destroyed in Western Australia, in the Pilbara region, an important Aboriginal site. The company carried out an explosion in an iron ore mine near it, and although it was not intentional, it caused damage to the shelter that has been used continuously by Australian indigenous people for 40-50 thousand years.
The explosion caused a Pilbara tree to fall and a rock to move from its original position in the shelter.
The company did not announce what happened until the last days of September, and is currently working with Aboriginal Interests Protection Organization staff to assess the damage and reconstruct exactly what happened.
They didn’t learn anything
This is not the first case in Rio Tinto in which a mine explosion has caused serious damage to indigenous heritage. As Orrego wrote, a few years ago, the destruction of a 46,000-year-old indigenous cave, so important to archaeologists, became a scandal that attracted international attention. The company’s directors were later caught up in the case.
Due to the current incident, the company has not appeared in public for weeks. Recently, the director responsible for the company’s iron ore sector made a statement to the Australian Public Service Channel in which he said: The authorities, the traditional owners of the area [azaz az őslakosokat – szerk.]The company’s investors were also informed of what happened, once they learned exactly what happened at the Pilbara site on August 6. Meanwhile, Rio Tinto expressed its regret over the incident and promised to reconsider its procedures related to the explosions.
However, there are those who believe that the company has already failed at the latter. An Australian Legislative Council member, Warren Entsch, who led the parliamentary inquiry set up over the previous case, claims Rio Tinto had not provided information about the case in a transparent manner until then. The company also promised to review the bombing procedures, but this time it also caused damage – if not intentionally – to an important heritage site.“They haven’t learned their lesson.” – said the actor now.
By the way, the company recently had a scandalous case: they left a measuring instrument used in mining in the middle of nowhere, which happened to infect the unwary with deadly radioactive radiation. They searched for the device with great effort on a highway, and finally found it.
This can be a double-edged sword
The August incident is particularly pivotal because significant political changes may begin in Australia with the expected expansion of Indigenous parliamentary representation, which could have major implications at federal and state levels.
Meanwhile, Indigenous interest groups have long called on Australia to review existing heritage protection laws and allow Indigenous communities to have a greater say in their development.
At the same time, there are those who advise caution. Indeed, they claim, if interest groups criticize too much of the current institutional system for Australian heritage protection, they risk that their political representation, which is increasingly strong, could be weakened at the institutional level.
At the same time, everyone agrees that Rio Tinto needs to review its blasting procedures, ensuring full transparency of the process.