Mining giant Rio Tinto announced released today a joint statement with the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people (PKKP), regarding the steps being taken to rebuild the relationship between the company and the aboriginal group. The statement follows a scandal that resulted in the resignation of several top executives at Rio Tinto in September, including CEO Jean-Sébastien Jacques.

In May 2020, Rio Tinto destroyed two caves at Juukan Gorge in Western Australia that contained archeological treasures, including fragments tens of thousands of years old linking the site to current aboriginal groups. While the company’s actions were not illegal, they were a massive failure in consideration of stakeholder interests.

In today’s statement, the parties highlighted several initiatives they are taking in order to move forward, including cooperating on remedial works at Juukan Gorge, and preparing of a Heads of Agreement that will specify each party’s commitments and outline how both Rio Tinto and PKKP will 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.”

Acting Chief Executive of Rio Tinto Iron Ore, Ivan Vella, said:

“We know we have a lot of work to do in order to rebuild trust and confidence in our business. I look forward to continuing the work with PKKP Traditional Owners to re-chart our partnership and build a shared future.”