June 19, 2020 / 12:08 AM / 20 days ago

Rio Tinto launches internal review after sacred caves blast

June 19 (Reuters) - Rio Tinto said on Friday it will look at ways to improve its internal processes and governance after drawing the ire of indigenous groups and the Australian government for blasting two ancient sacred Aboriginal caves.

The world’s biggest iron ore miner last month destroyed two caves at Juukan Gorge that had previously contained evidence of continual human habitation stretching back 46,000 years as part of a mine expansion.

Chief Executive Jean-Sebastien Jacques has since apologised for the incident, which occurred as the Black Lives Matter protests once again bring into focus the treatment of ethnic and cultural minorities around the world.

Rio said its review will focus on events at Juukan Gorge, assess the miner’s “internal heritage standards” and examine its relationship with the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura (PKKP) people.

“Our immediate priority is to regain the trust of Traditional Owners, starting with the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people,” Jacques said in a statement.

The review, to be conducted by independent non-executive director Michael L’Estrange AO, will begin immediately and seek input from Rio employees as well as the PKKP. A final report is expected by October, Rio said.

The review will complement and lend to a national inquiry into the destruction of the caves. Under terms of the inquiry, the joint standing committee on Northern Australia must report back by Sept. 30. (Reporting by Shashwat Awasthi in Bengaluru; Editing by Stephen Coates)

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