Rio Tinto has outlined their path forward from the Juukan Gorge disaster of 2020, starting with the implementation of an Indigenous Advisory Group.

Presenting virtual seminars on Tuesday, Rio Tinto board members and executives presented the steps they had taken to better invest in Traditional Owner relationships and cultural heritage protections and governance.

“We have reflected a great deal as a company and leadership team over recent months – listening, learning and responding by taking actions to better manage Traditional Owner partnerships and cultural heritage aspects of our business,” said Rio Tinto CEO Jakob Stausholm.

It’s understood the mining giant undertook extensive consultations with Traditional Owners and settled on establishing an Indigenous Advisory Group, among other measures, to ensure a stronger understanding of Indigenous cultures and issues across the country – including at the Board level.

The Indigenous Advisory Group will advise senior leaders within Rio Tinto on their commitments to Traditional Owners and their business performance.

The miner has also committed their Sustainability Chair to visiting the Pilbara three times in 2021.

“One thing is clear – building meaningful and trusting relationships is fundamental. And that starts with Traditional Owners,” Stausholm said.

“We must focus on real engagement with our communities, understanding their felt experience and never forgetting that, ultimately, we are guests on their land. And, as guests, we must respect our hosts and work with them to understand their priorities and concerns and minimise our impacts.”

The company has invested $50 million into Indigenous leadership and has doubled its number of Indigenous leaders since August 2020.

In terms of their history in agreements that essentially gagged Traditional Owners, it’s understood Rio Tinto will modernise their agreements to implement consistent reviews to confirm ongoing consent to works on Country.

The miner has also said they intend to deliver on the recommendations from the impending parliamentary inquiry final report.

By Hannah Cross