PKKP and Rio Tinto make amends after tension flares

PKKPAC Chair John Ashburton (L) and Rio Tinto Chair Simon Thompson.

Puutu Kunti Kurrama Pinikura Traditional Owners and mining giant Rio Tinto have made amends in a public joint statement on Friday, acknowledging that fractured relationships take time to rebuild.

PKKP Aboriginal Corporation (PKKPAC) recently struck out at Rio Tinto for their executive reshuffle, accusing Chair Simon Thompson of going back on a deal he made with Traditional Owners to allow acting iron ore CEO, Ivan Vella, to lead Reconciliation between the groups.

It’s understood Traditional Owners and Rio Tinto executives met at a Board meeting on November 24 where the promise was reportedly made.

Thompson allegedly told PKKP people that Vella would be leading the way on reconciling the relationships between the two parties.

However, this was not so as Rio Tinto’s new executive was announced on January 28, appointing Rio Tinto’s Chief Commercial Officer, Simon Trott, to the iron ore chief executive role.

Senior representatives from the two organisations have since been in discussions to smooth out the misunderstanding.

“The PKKP acknowledges that it was not the intention of the Rio Tinto Chairman Simon Thompson to mislead the PKKP Board and Elders at the joint board meeting,” the statement said.

They said PKKP now understands the PKKP-Rio Tinto relationship is “owned by the Chief Executive Iron Ore” and that Vella was holding this accountability “in an acting capacity”.

Rio Tinto said they accepted they should have communicated the executive changes to PKKP Traditional Owners “in a more collaborative way”.

“We jointly recognise that in any relationship mistakes are going to be made and it is how we work through these that informs the strength and depth of the ongoing relationship,” the statement said.

“Both PKKP and Rio Tinto recognise that progress has been made and are equally committed to building on this momentum.”

By Hannah Cross

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