Rio’s Prize for Blowing Up Ancient History: $135 Million – by David Stringer (Bloomberg News – August 7, 2020)

(Bloomberg) — A decision by Rio Tinto Group to destroy Aboriginal Australian heritage sites dating back more than 46,000 years delivered about $135 million in extra value to its iron ore division, according to the miner’s top executive.

Rio rejected three other options that would have avoided damaging two rockshelters in Western Australia in order to access about 8 million tons of high-value ore, Chief Executive Officer Jean-Sebastien Jacques said Friday. The company recorded about $4.6 billion in profits from its iron ore unit in the first half.

“The economic value at the time of the decision, or the net present value, was around $135 million,” when mining plans for the site in the Juukan Gorge region of the Pilbara district were decided in around 2012 or 2013, Jacques told a hearing of an Australian parliamentary committee investigating the blasts.

At the time those decisions were made, the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura Aboriginal Corporation, the region’s traditional land owners, were not made aware that Rio had been considering a total of four options, including three proposals that could have avoided the Juukan Gorge sites, Jacques told legislators on the conference-call hearing.

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