What Led Rio Tinto Mining Company to Blow Up a 46,000-Year-Old Aboriginal Site?

Rio Tinto Mining Company was pursuing iron ore in Western Australia in May 2020. Their work took them into areas of human habitation that date back several millennia.

The company went through two rock shelters in Juukan Gorge, in the Pilbara region. It wasn’t illegal, as the company had obtained permission to mine there in 2013. Even when relics, human hair, and faunal remains were found a year after the permit issuance, the mining activities were still authorized.

Protesters descended on the company immediately. Critics say that Rio Tinto knew the site’s importance before blasting for iron, but they chose to ignore it. The business had even hired lawyers to manage potential injunctions.

Rio Tinto Shook Up Their Management Immediately

The fallout from the destruction of the Aboriginal site was immediate. The company’s CEO and Executive Director agreed to depart after negotiating an exit from the company. The head of corporate relations and the person in charge of the iron ore division resigned from their posts.

As the company apologized for the actions taken, three executives got stripped of their performance bonuses. Rio Tinto’s internal review found that although the blasting was legal, it fell short of the standards that the business expected of its inner guidance.

It should be noted that these steps weren’t taken until several significant stakeholders expressed concern about C-Suite accountability.

The National Native Title Council announced that they appreciated the leadership changes happening at Rio Tinto, but he also stressed that more work was necessary. The mining company was already considered one of the best in the industry for its standards, so what would stop someone else from pursuing the same tactic?

With Rio Tinto refusing to carry out independent reviews of the decision-making process, concern exists that other indigenous sites could lose their priceless artifacts.

The goal is to prevent history from getting destroyed in the future. If we are to be successful, each country must create regulations and enforceable laws to ensure a company can’t change its standards in the pursuit of profit.