BHP has reported a rockfall event in the Pilbara where a site of indigenous heritage was reportedly damaged. The event occurred at the Banjima registered site on 29 January 2021 within Mining Area C in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.
The cause of the rockfall has not yet been determined but a joint investigation has been launched between the region’s indigenous Governing body and the miner.
In a statement supplied to AMSJ BHP confirmed that “BHPand the Banjima Native Title Aboriginal Corporation (BNTAC), the prescribed body corporate for the Banjima People, have commenced a joint investigation to understand the cause of the rockfall at Pilbara region and ensure any lessons are identified.”
Earlier this month, BHP’s President Minerals Australia, Edgar Basto and Western Australia Iron Ore, Asset President, Brandon Craig reportedly met with Banjima’s South Flank Heritage Advisory Council to discuss the rock fall and commence the investigation.
Maitland Parker, BNTAC Chair and Banjima Elder told AMSJ “Our Heritage Council was convened to ensure open lines of communication between BHP and Banjima on heritage issues and other matters — something that is now happening. BNTAC and our Heritage Council, alongside BHP, will continue this investigation to ascertain the exact causes of the impact on the site.”
In response to the incident, Edgar Basto said “Our relationship with the Banjima people is critically important to BHP. Over many years we have built a strong relationship with the Banjima based on a deep respect for their heritage and their connection to the country. We have personally expressed our concern to Banjima Elders and commenced a joint investigation. We will continue to work with the Banjima in a spirit of respect and cooperation. We regard all Banjima heritage as important and we will learn from the outcomes of the investigation.”
The incident comes after Rio Tinto was embroiled in controversy after an aboriginal heritage rock shelter site was blasted at Juukan Gorge in May 2020. Blasting operations destroyed 46,000-year-old rock shelters of archaeological significance and caused serious damage to Rio’s engagement reputation in the region.
In recent weeks BHP has also vowed to protect 40 Aboriginal heritage sites which it had previous Governmental permissions to destroy as part of its mining operations. The company vowed no action would be taken without “further extensive consultation” with traditional owners.
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