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What Can We Learn From the Rio Tinto Disaster?

The mining company intentionally destroyed a 46,000-year old sacred site for USD 135 million worth of iron ore--and it could cost them billions.


In May of this year, mining company Rio Tinto (RIO) destroyed a 46,000-year-old sacred Indigenous site in Western Australia’s Juukan Gorge so that it could mine iron ore. The company demolished two rock shelters, or caves, that held evidence of human habitation for millennia and yielded artifacts like stone relics, faunal remains, and human hair, to get at around USD 135 million worth of iron ore.

The destruction was irreversible but legal. Australian media firm ABC reported that, “Rio Tinto obtained permission to mine in the area in 2013, a right which was not affected by the discovery of ancient artifacts such as stone relics, faunal remains, and human hair in one of the Juukan caves a year later.”

Ruth Saldanha does not own (actual or beneficial) shares in any of the securities mentioned above. Find out about Morningstar’s editorial policies.