Rio-Tinto (LON: RIO) Must Rebuild Aboriginal Caves Orders Australian Parliamentary Inquiry

Summary

  • An Australian parliamentary committee inquiring into the destruction of the Juukan Gorge caves in Pilbara has ordered Rio Tinto to rebuild the Aboriginal Caves.
  • In May, the company had blown up two ancient aboriginal caves in Pilbara, leading to widespread protests.
  • This prompted the Australian government to initiate an investigation into the company’s role.
  • The company board has removed chief executive Jean-Sébastien Jacques and has also cut down executive bonus.

An order which is one of the first of its kind by the Parliamentary inquiry into the demolition of the aboriginal caves in the Juukan Gorge caves complex in Pilbara in Western Australia has asked Rio Tinto Plc (LON: RIO) that it must rebuild those caves. The inquiry committee has termed the act of demolition as “inexcusable” and asked the company to compensate the traditional owners.

The Juukan George Caves are considered as one of Australia's most significant archaeological research sites, which contained evidence of continuous human habitation since the last Ice Age. These caves are considered as heritage by Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura (PKKP) people, who are the traditional owners of the land.

Parliamentary Inquiry

Following the demolition of the caves, there was widespread criticism. The parliamentary inquiry showed how the company had ignored the repeated requests of the aboriginal people and went ahead with the demolition of the historical caves.

It was also revealed during the inquiry that the company had not only misinformed and misguided the natives but also misrepresented facts to the WA Government while seeking work permission in the area.

The inquiry report titled “Never Again” while asking Rio Tinto to compensate the aboriginal owners of the heritage site has said that the company was fully aware of the cultural and heritage value of the caves and didn’t pay any heed before destroying it.

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A breach of corporate accountability?

There are many who view the Juukan Gorge Cave demolition as a case of corporate insensitivity towards local traditions and history. The caves, which were sitting atop £75 million worth of iron ore, was not a very valuable asset for the company given the massive scale of its operations.

The evidence available suggests that the company was very much aware of the archaeological importance of this site as they had also sought legal counsel just ahead of the demolition. The parliamentary committee order has not recommended any punitive action against the company, and it is still open for the government to fix responsibility and take punitive action. Meanwhile, the company board has removed chief executive Jean-Sébastien Jacques and has also cut down executive bonus.

Share price performance

The shares of Rio Tinto plc were trading at GBX 5,406.00 per share as on 10 December 2020, (8.46 AM GMT+1) gaining 0.69 per cent over the previous day’s close. The stock with a market cap of GBP 66,946.00 million has given a positive return of 26.14 per cent in the last one year.

 

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