An inquiry into the destruction of Juukan Gorge has heard that Rio Tinto is anticipated to destroy one other 124 Aboriginal heritage websites at a brand new iron ore improvement lower than 100km away from the exploded rock shelters.
Questions have additionally been raised over whether or not the approval granted by the WA authorities to destroy the 46,000-year-old websites in Juukan Gorge was legitimate.
Rio Tinto destroyed the 2 historical rock shelters on 24 Might, on the idea of ministerial consent granted by the then WA Aboriginal affairs minister, Peter Collier, in 2013. The then premier, Colin Barnett, has recently called for a royal commission.
Robin Chapple, a WA Greens MP, advised the inquiry that Collier gave consent underneath part 18 of the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972 on the idea of a suggestion from a gathering of the Aboriginal Cultural Supplies Committee on 18 December 2013.
That assembly ran for 50 minutes and thought of 124 Aboriginal heritage websites, together with the rock shelters often called Juukan 1 and a pair of. It was presided over by the chair of the committee, one committee member, and three ex-officio members.
“There’s a excessive chance that that suggestion to the minister was invalid,” Chapple advised the joint standing committee on Northern Australia in a phone listening to on Monday. “And the rationale for that’s the act specifies that solely two members of that committee might be ex-officio in terms of a quorum of 5.”
Which means the state could possibly be responsible for a compensation declare from the normal house owners of Juukan Gorge, the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura (PKKP) folks, Chapple mentioned.
The PKKP are already in confidential talks with Rio Tinto about compensation and guaranteeing additional heritage safety. The realm round Juukan Gorge, which the corporate decided not to avoid in order to access an additional $135m in high grade iron ore at its Brockman 4 mine, is now topic to a moratorium.
South of the PKKP county, the Yinhawangka Aboriginal Company (YAC) is making an attempt to forestall the destruction of 124 Aboriginal heritage websites which can be within the path of Rio Tinto’s Western Vary deposit. Rio Tinto has already obtained part 18 approval to destroy 26 of these 124 websites, which YAC has no proper to oppose.
There are 327 heritage websites in that space alone. Rio introduced in February that it found 200 million tones of iron ore on the website, which it’s growing in a three way partnership with China’s Baowu Group.
Dr Anna Fagan, an archaeologist with YAC, advised the inquiry that some websites within the Western Vary could possibly be as previous as Yirra, a significant rock shelter on Yinhawangka country that is estimated to be at least 27,000 years old. She mentioned the total age and significance of each Yirra and the Western Vary websites wouldn’t be identified with out additional archaeological work, which YAC doesn’t have the sources to fund by itself. Mining firms solely fund in depth archaeological surveys if it’s a salvage mission previous to the location being destroyed, as they did at Juukan Gorge.
“We depend on Rio’s goodwill,” YAC chief government Grant Bussell advised the inquiry. “For instance, for Yirra they’ve supplied us some funding to proceed with that. And I actually imagine that due to your inquiry and the failures that occurred in PKKP nation, they’re extra delicate now and a bit of extra cautious across the safety of web sites.”
Bussell mentioned he had heard “optimistic sounding statements out of Rio” however the firm had but to inform YAC they might assessment all lively part 18 approvals over YAC land, and whether or not they would renegotiate cultural heritage agreements.
BHP, Rio Tinto’s greatest competitor, has agreed to each. It’s working to differentiate itself from Rio Tinto, which previous to the destruction of Juukan Gorge was thought-about the main practitioner in defending Indigenous heritage in Australia. Rio Tinto’s global chief executive, the Perth-based chief executive of its iron ore division and another executive resigned over the incident, which Chapple mentioned was “what’s identified within the Pilbara as a cluster, and I’ll allow you to end the remainder of the phrase”.
Cedric Davies, a geologist who has labored with each native title teams and mining firms within the Pilbara, together with Rio Tinto, mentioned he “wasn’t shocked that Rio had obtained a piece 18 consent; that form of factor occurs on a regular basis. However I used to be shocked on the scale of the location that had been destroyed and I used to be shocked that it was Rio Tinto … they’d so lengthy been thought-about to be business leaders and I couldn’t fathom what they have been pondering”.
“The occasions at Juukan uncovered Rio behaving just like the East India Firm mark 2,” Davies mentioned. “Ruthless asset stripping and transport the income abroad.”
He mentioned mining firms obtained privileged therapy in Western Australia, all the way down to the velocity with which they’ll anticipate a response from authorities departments, and that makes every part a lot tougher for Indigenous teams.
“If I ask for a map, if it’s for a mining firm I normally get a map again inside one or two days, with an apology if it’s later than that,” he mentioned. “If I’m performing on behalf of an Indigenous group, it’s normally after follow-up emails weeks later.”
Bussell mentioned the new draft Aboriginal heritage legislation is not going to appropriate that imbalance.
“I don’t see a single factor that might cease Juukan from occurring once more,” he mentioned. “That is Western Australia. The mining business is highly effective. It’s an excellent pressure for the nation and for WA however if you carry it up towards Aboriginal folks and this outstanding heritage now we have … you guys know in addition to I do know who’s going to come back out on prime.”
He mentioned the minister mustn’t have discretionary energy to grant approval to destroy a heritage website until it has gone by an impartial assessment course of by a physique just like the state administrative tribunal.
Woodside operates fuel vegetation on the Burrup peninsula among the many world heritage nominated Murujuga Aboriginal cultural panorama, one of many oldest and most in depth areas of rock artwork on this planet. It mentioned it had not disturbed any heritage websites since 2007, and that rights of conventional house owners to enchantment the destruction of heritage must be “time sure and expedient”
“But when extra data comes into the desk [after approval to destroy a site has been granted] we should take care of it, our coverage requires it,” mentioned Daniel Kalms, Woodside’s senior vice-president of company and authorized.