MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Rio Tinto Chief Executive Jean-Sebastien Jacques on Friday apologised for distress caused by Rio’s destruction last month of two ancient and sacred Aboriginal caves in Western Australia, pledging full cooperation with an Australian government inquiry.
“We are very sorry for the distress we have caused the PKKP in relation to Juukan Gorge and our first priority remains rebuilding trust with the PKKP,” Jacques said in a statement, referring to the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura (PKKP) people.
With state government approval, the world’s biggest iron ore miner destroyed two caves at Juukan Gorge that had previously contained evidence of continual human habitation stretching back 46,000 years as part of its Brockman mine expansion in the iron-rich Pilbara region.
Amid heightened global awareness over the treatment of minorities sparked by Black Lives Matter protests around the world, the apology marked Rio CEO Jacques’ first public comments on the event since it occurred more than two weeks ago.
“Rio Tinto will fully cooperate with the (government) inquiry,” Jacques said in his statement.