FMG chief executive Elizabeth Gaines has apologised to Traditional Owners after it was found the miner commenced ground-disturbing works in an area near the Solomon Hub project without the presence of Elders.

Wintawari Guruma Aboriginal Corporation (WGAC), representing Eastern Guruma Traditional Owners, said FMG had breached their agreement with Traditional Owners by proceeding without Elders present.

FMG says the incident occurred due to an administrative error, causing the works to begin earlier than planned. NIT understands the site clearance was planned for February 22 but instead took place on February 1.

It’s understood Gaines has since apologised to Traditional Owners and spoken to WGAC Chair Glen Camille, expressing her “regret and sincere apology on behalf of Fortescue”.

“We have paused all clearing works at this site as we work with WGAC on the matter.”

The ground-disturbing works began in January at FMG’s Queens Valley site, part of the Solomon Hub, near the Pilbara town of Tom Price.

It’s understood WA Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Ben Wyatt authorised the mining giant to commence works provided that at least two Eastern Guruma Elders were present while ground disturbing activities took place.

The WA Government is now investigating the issue as an alleged breach of the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972 (WA).

WA Labor Senator and Yawuru man Pat Dodson has since called for a Royal Commission into mining in the Pilbara after revelations this week of heritage incidents concerning FMG and BHP.

The apology from Gaines comes as Eastern Guruma people have secured exploration permits over their Country in a bid to increase their control of future mining developments.

By Hannah Cross