BHP agrees not to damage 40 Aboriginal heritage sites without consulting traditional owners – by Lorena Allam and Calla Wahlquist (The Guardian – June 11, 2020)

BHP has said it will not damage 40 Aboriginal heritage sites which it received ministerial permission to destroy without “further extensive consultation” with traditional owners, after Guardian Australia revealed that traditional owners had been legally prevented from speaking publicly about the sites.

It comes amid a mounting shareholder backlash against mining companies for their destruction of Aboriginal heritage, which began with Rio Tinto’s destruction of a 46,000-year-old heritage site at Juukan Gorge last month and has been compared by shareholder groups to widespread bad conduct in the financial services sector before the banking royal commission.

On Thursday BHP said it was clarifying earlier statements by promising not to destroy any of the 40 sites in the central Pilbara to expand its $4.5bn South Flank iron ore mining operation, without further consultation with the Banjima traditional owners. It received a ministerial consent order to destroy them under WA’s outdated Aboriginal heritage laws on 29 March.

“We will not disturb the sites identified without further extensive consultation with the Banjima people,” a BHP spokesman said.

“That consultation will be based on our commitment to understanding the cultural significance of the region and on the deep respect we have for the Banjima people and their heritage. “This will include further scientific study and discussion on mitigation and preservation.”

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