The traditional Aboriginal owners of Juukan Gorge, which mining giant Rio Tinto knowingly destroyed in order to access higher-grade iron ore, say they are reluctant to continue dealing with the company, accusing it of reneging on a key promise it made to rebuild their shattered relationship.
In a letter to the company seen by Guardian Australia, the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura peoples (PKKP) say they learned of an executive reshuffle only through media reports and accused Rio Tinto of breaking a promise that iron ore boss Ivan Vella would be personally responsible for repairing trust.
The PKKP say that for “consistency and balance” they had specifically asked for Vella to work with them, and at a meeting in November this was given “unequivocal” support by the chairman of the Rio Tinto board, Simon Thompson.
“We were thus shocked and surprised to hear via the media on Thursday morning that Mr Vella is being transferred to Montreal and Mr [Simon] Trott will fill the position of CEO Iron Ore, as two of a number of senior management changes,” PKKP Aboriginal corporation’s acting executive, Grant Wilson, wrote in the 2 February letter.
Wilson said that after the meeting, many within the PKKP “retained deep-seated skepticism” about whether Rio Tinto was genuine in its desire to restore trust.