Rio Tinto ‘has a lot to do’ to mend ties with indigenous Australians

Rio Tinto said it has “a lot of work to do” after a scandal that forced its chief executive to stand down.

The Anglo-Australian miner has started rebuilding ties with the indigenous owners of sacred caves in the Pilbara region of Western Australia it destroyed in May.

“We know we have a lot of work to do in order to rebuild trust and confidence in our business,” said acting chief executive of Rio Tinto Iron Ore, Ivan Vella.

His words came in a joint statement with the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people (PKKP), after the Rio Tinto and PKKP boards sat down to reaffirm the miner’s apology.

“I look forward to continuing the work with PKKP Traditional Owners to rechart our partnership and build a shared future,” Mr Vella said.

The two parties are set to prepare an agreement to outline how they can work together.

Kurrama elder Burchell Hayes said: “While we have made some initial positive steps in rebuilding our relationship there is so much more we need to do in order to shape a shared future for our next generations of PKKP people working with Rio Tinto.”

In May, mine workers destroyed the 46,000-year-old Juukan Gorge to expand one site.

The event caused a huge outcry and eventually led to the departure of chief executive Jean-Sebastien Jacques, whose replacement Jakob Stausholm was announced earlier this month.

A statement read: “PKKP notes the appointment of new chief executive Jakob Stausholm and hopes that discussions between PKKP and Rio Tinto will continue in a positive direction.”

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