Rio Tinto (RIO.L) and Rio Tinto Axis (RIO.AX) announced on Monday that they had reached an agreement with an Indigenous tribe for a project in Western Australia, in an effort to avoid a repeat of the outrage that the company experienced after destroying the sacred Juukan Gorge rock shelters.
A statement from Rio said the agreement with the Yinhawangka Aboriginal Corporation (YAC) will ensure that a new co-designed management plan protects social and cultural heritage values in the proposed development of the Western Range iron ore project in the Pilbara region, which is currently under consideration by the company.
As a result of the collaboration, Rio stated, the mines would be constructed to have the least possible impact on social and cultural assets. The Yinhawangka people will be involved in the decision-making process on environmental issues and mine development, according to the statement.
After Rio Tinto’s destruction of the 46,000-year-old Juukan Gorge rock shelters in Western Australia for the construction of an iron ore mine sparked widespread public and investor outrage, the company made the announcement. Following the controversy, key executives including former Chief Executive Officer Jean-Sebastien Jacques and Chairman Simon Thompson left their positions.
“We’re well aware that we haven’t always gotten it right in the past. As a result of this co-designed process, which is the method in which we wish to collaborate with all Traditional Owners, we have learned and continue to learn a great deal”, Simon Trott, Chief Executive Officer of Rio Tinto Iron Ore, stated.