Rio Tinto to support Juukan Gorge Legacy Foundation

PKKP Aboriginal Corporation and Rio Tinto create foundation to support major cultural and social projects following destruction of sacred sites in 2020

The Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura (PKKP) Aboriginal Corporation and Rio Tinto have agreed to create the Juukan Gorge Legacy Foundation after signing a remedy agreement regarding the tragic destruction of two ancient rock shelters at Juukan Gorge in the Pilbara region of Western Australia in 2020.

In a statement, Rio Tinto said that in accordance with the right to self-determination, the agreement reflects the desire of the Traditional Owners to create a foundation that will support the cultural, social, educational, and economic aspirations of the group.

The mining giant added that the foundation – which will be led and controlled by the Traditional Owners – will also enable the delivery of broader benefits through commercial partnership opportunities.

Under the terms of the agreement, Rio Tinto will provide financial support to the foundation to progress major cultural and social projects, including a new keeping place for storage of important cultural materials.

The agreement forms part of Rio Tinto’s commitment to remedying and rebuilding its relationship with the PKKP people. In addition to supporting the creation of the Juukan Gorge Legacy Foundation, remedy discussions have centred on agreeing a new approach to co-management of Country as well as the ongoing rehabilitation of the rock shelters and their surrounds at Juukan Gorge, the statement continued.

Rio Tinto Chief Executive Jakob Stausholm said: “We fell far short of our values as a company and breached the trust placed in us by the PKKP people by allowing the destruction of the Juukan Gorge rock shelters. As we work hard to rebuild our relationship, I would like to thank the PKKP people, their elders, and the Corporation for their guidance and leadership in forming this important agreement.”

At the request of the PKKP Aboriginal Corporation, the financial terms of the agreement will not be disclosed, he added.

Positive Legacy Outcome

In 2020, Rio Tinto destroyed ancient rock shelters in Western Australia in the process of developing an iron ore mine. The destruction of the Jukkan Gorge sites showed evidence that humans habitation going back to 46,000 years ago – the last Ice Age. The incident caused deep distress amongst the Traditional Owners of the land, the Puutu Kunti, Kurrama and Pinikura (PKKP) peoples.

The incident also caused global uproar and resulted in three senior leaders and two board members losing their jobs, a parliamentary enquiry, and an overhaul of the mining industry’s agreements with Indigenous Australians.

"Nothing can compensate for or replace the loss suffered at Juukan Gorge, so this is an outcome orientated legacy to ensure something positive will come from it for years to come," PKKP Aboriginal Corp Chairperson Burchell Hayes said in a statement.

The Juukan Gorge Legacy Foundation will focus on education and training opportunities, financial independence through business development, preservation and an increased voice over heritage, culture and land, the PKKP statement continued, highlighting that both parties are in advanced talks about a co-management of a mining agreement.

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