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WA: Inquiry into the destruction of 46,000 year-old caves at Juukan Gorge comes with a warning

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A final report has been issued with a dire warning from experts after destroying ancient Australian sites dating back 46,000 years. A final report has been issued with experts’ warning after the collapse of ancient Australian sites dating back 46,000 years. On Monday, a federal parliamentary committee recommended several vital changes to protect sacred sites across the country after mining giant Rio Tinto destroyed two ancient Australian caves in a massive detonation in May last year – despite urgent appeals warning the company of its cultural significance. The caves in the Juukan Gorge, in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, were destroyed in the blast to expand the mining company’s Brockman 4 iron ore mine. The rock shelters were damaged on May 23 despite archaeological excavations in 2014 that revealed “new information” surrounding the site.

Numerous archaeologists have noted the site’s historical significance. The site is significant because it reveals human habitation dating back to the last ice age when most of the land around the area was deserted by people who preferred to base themselves on the coast. Subsequent archaeological excavation revealed ancient artifacts, including grinding stones, a bone sharpened into a tool, and 4000-year-old braided hair. Despite receiving urgent appeals against the planned destruction of the caves from traditional owners, then-Rio Tinto boss Jean-Sebastien Jacques said the site was already strapped with explosives and was too unsafe to stop the blast.

Juukan Gorge

The decision caused international outrage and outraged traditional owners and Australians nationwide. Rio Tinto “unreservedly apologized,” but it was too late, with three senior executives exiting the mining giant since, conceding it is “ultimately accountable for the failings”. In its final report, titled A Way Forward, the Joint Standing Committee on Northern Australia warned the destruction of Juukan Gorge is “not unique” and could happen again, in “an extreme example of the destruction of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural heritage which continues to happen in this country”.

Hon Warren Entsch MP, Chair, said the disaster caused “caused the immeasurable cultural and spiritual loss, as well as profound grief for the Puutu Kunti Kurama and Pinikura peoples. “Rio Tinto’s actions were inexcusable and an affront, not only to the PKKP but to all Australians,” he said. “Across the Australian landscape are thousands of sites of cultural importance to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. “These international sites date back thousands of years, but many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage sites are tens of thousands of years old. “Just as other nations protect cultural sites of significance—the Colosseum, the Parthenon, the Great Pyramid of Giza—Australia must also preserve its sites.

“It is inconceivable that Australia has not developed proper protections for such sites, and action must be a national priority.” Upon tabling the final report, Mr. Entsch said it was clear that extensive changes were required to protect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s cultural heritage. The information makes eight recommendations focusing on urgent changes to federal law to enhance Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s cultural heritage protection.

Rio Tinto Chief Executive Jakob Stausholm said: “We have been working hard to rebuild trust and meaningful relationships with the PKKP people and other Traditional Owners. Rio Tinto is committed to listening, learning, and showing excellent care, which remains a top priority. “We know this will take time, and there will be challenges ahead, but we are focused on improving our engagement with Indigenous Peoples and our host communities to understand their priorities and concerns better, minimize our impacts, and responsibly manage Indigenous cultural heritage; in and around our operations.”

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As a blogger, I’ve had the opportunity to share my experiences and insights with other people. The most important thing I’ve learned about blogging is that it’s not about me. It’s about connecting with others. I love the idea of using writing to build relationships. I’m always thinking about what I can do to make my blog more useful, interesting, and accessible to others. I enjoy talking about technology, health, finance, food, and travel.
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