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(AUSTRALIA) Rio Tinto Report: A world-renowned archaeologist has compared the destruction of two 46,000-year-old Aboriginal cultural sites in the Pilbara to destruction of Palmyra #AceNewsDesk report

#AceNewsReport – May.20: The blasting of the sites was one of the worst destructions of an archaeological site in recent memory according to Peter Stone, the UNESCO chair in Cultural Property Protection and Peace at Newcastle University in the UK:

Rio Tinto blasting of 46,000-year-old Aboriginal sites compared to Islamic State’s destruction in Palmyra: ‘Two sites in the Juukan Gorge were destroyed last weekend by mining company Rio Tinto, after being approved for destruction in 2013, despite significant archaeological discoveries that were made in 2014’

updated Fri 29 May 2020 at 12:31pm

An aerial view of the red dirt and trees of the Juukan Gorge.
Rio Tinto was given permission to blast Juukan Gorge 1 and 2 under Section 18 of the Aboriginal Heritage Act.(Supplied: Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura Aboriginal Corporation )

“It’s a black day for us all,” he said.

Ruins from a Roman theatre in Palmyra.
Artefacts in the Roman Theatre in the historical city of Palmyra were destroyed by the Islamic State.(Reuters: Omar Sanadiki)

Professor Stone, who is an expert on the significant cultural destruction during the Iraq war, compared the blast to the destruction of sacred artefacts by the Islamic State in recent years.

“It’s a tragedy that sits up there with all sorts of sites; the Palmyras, Mosuls and Bamiyan Buddhas of this world,” he said.

The site included significant archaeological discoveries, including the oldest example of bone tools found in Australia.

“They were not only extremely important sites for Aboriginal communities, but also they were extremely important sites for archaeological understanding of the distant past in Australia,” Professor Stone said.

Smoke rises up over roman ruins in Palmyra.
The ‘Arch of Triumph’ at Palmyra was destroyed by Islamic State in 2015.(Supplied: ICRC)

Burchell Hayes, a traditional owner of the Puutu Kunti Kurruma people, said the blasting activity was just 11 metres from the two rock shelters.

“It saddens us that something that we have got a deep connection to has been destroyed,” he said.

“We can’t undo what’s already happened but what we can do is try and go back to Rio Tinto and talk to them on how we can protect the remaining sites in that area.”

Minister says traditional owners called his office in 11th-hour bid to stop blast

Indigenous Affairs Minister Ken Wyatt has confirmed he was contacted by legal representatives of traditional owners trying to stop the destruction of 46,000-year-old cultural sites in the Pilbara.

Mr Wyatt said his office received a call at the 11th hour, a few days before Rio Tinto blasted the site, asking the Federal Government to step in and prevent it.

He said his office provided advice to a lawyer representing traditional owners about how to access “Commonwealth provisions” but said he did not step in to stop the blast.

“I was advised that the call had occurred, and that advice had been given and that the lawyer was proceeding with the advice given,” he said.

A shot of the face of Ken Wyatt.
Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt said Rio Tinto had expressed regret to him for the blast during a phone call this week.(ABC News: Tim Leslie)

Rio Tinto expresses regret to Minister

Rio Tinto has not publicly apologised for the destruction of the site, but Mr Wyatt said the company expressed deep regret in a call with him.

“In this instance, I know from a call that I received from Rio Tinto that they are extremely regretful,” he said.

“The person I was talking to has been an advocate of protection of sites and they’re certainly regretful.

“He knows the traditional owners personally and he was quite upset at what had happened.

“Now that doesn’t excuse the fact that these two sites have happened.”

He said more diligence had to be paid in future and that reviews of the Federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act should aim to improve protections for sacred Aboriginal sites.

“You cannot replace them,” Mr Wyatt said.

Mr Wyatt could not understand how Rio Tinto had gone ahead with the blast.

“It’s incomprehensible, I don’t know if it’s a genuine mistake, which it appears to be,” he said.

#AceNewsDesk report ………Published: May.20: 2021:

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AUSTRALIA) Rio Tinto Report: A world-renowned archaeologist has compared the destruction of two 46,000-year-old Aboriginal cultural sites in the Pilbara to destruction of Palmyra

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