Rio Tinto will withdraw three million euros in bonuses from its boss, the French Jean-Sébastien Jacques, following the blasting by the mining giant of a site that was inhabited by Aborigines more than 46,000 years ago, destruction that caused a stir in Australia.
It was to expand an iron ore mine that the Anglo-Australian group had destroyed with explosives on May 24 the Juukan Gorge cave in Western Australia, one of the oldest settlement sites in the country.
Mr. Jacques, managing director of Rio Tinto, will have to give up 2.7 million pounds (3 million euros) of bonuses because of this incident, announced Monday the group after an internal investigation.
The head of the “Iron Ore” division Chris Salisbury and the head of communications Simone Niven for their part will waive bonuses of US $ 792,000 and US $ 687,000.
The internal investigation showed that Rio Tinto had indeed obtained the legal authorizations to destroy the site but that, in doing so, the group had not respected its own standards.
She considered that this blasting was “not the result of a single cause or a single error”, but “the result of a series of decisions, actions and omissions over a long period”.
Rio Tinto President Simon Thompson lamented his group’s lack of respect for local communities and their heritage.
“This survey provides a clear framework for change. It should be emphasized that this is only the beginning of a process and not its end, he said. “We will implement important new measures to ensure that what happened at Juukan cave does not happen again.”
Rio Tinto initially defended the destruction of the site, claiming that it was approved by the state government.
But the turmoil created among Aboriginal officials, who said they had been informed of this destruction too late to prevent it, prompted the group to apologize.
The cultural significance of the site had been established by excavations carried out a year after Rio Tinto obtained permission to destroy it.
These excavations revealed the oldest bone tool discovered to date in Australia, made 28,000 years ago from a kangaroo bone. DNA analyzes had made it possible to establish a link between the population of the site and people still living in the area.
The state of Western Australia is reviewing the laws governing mining activities near Aboriginal heritage sites.