Reconciliation Australia has cancelled Rio Tinto’s Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) in response to the mining giant’s destruction of two sacred Aboriginal sites in Juukan Gorge.

Releasing a statement on Tuesday, Reconciliation Australia said the blasting of the rock shelters dating back 46,000 years exposed a “breathtaking breach of a respectful relationship”.

The statement read:

“Respectful relationships built on trust are at the heart of reconciliation.

“The blasting activity in Juukan Gorge by Rio Tinto exposes a broken relationship with the Puutu Kunti Kurama and Pinikura (PKKP) Peoples and a breathtaking breach of a respectful relationship.

“It was devastating for the Traditional Owners and robbed the world of a uniquely valuable cultural heritage site.

“The pain caused by this action extend to First Peoples and their allies across Australia and around the world.

“Rio Tinto’s actions failed to meet their own aspirations to advance reconciliation and do not meet the standards Reconciliation Australia expects of our Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) partners.

“We have met with Rio Tinto to convey our extreme concern over recent events, and while not discounting their many positive outcomes and important work to advance reconciliation, Reconciliation Australia has revoked its endorsement of Rio Tinto as an Elevate RAP organisation and suspended the company from the RAP program.

“Review of the suspension will be dependent on how Rio Tinto engages with and responds to the PKKP Peoples, and how they respect the aspirations of all Traditional Owner groups they are in partnership with.

“It is also dependent on the company keeping their commitment to a full and public release of a review into the actions that led to the destruction of Juukan Gorge, and meaningful accountability and sustained action in light of the review, including efforts to share key learnings.”

The statement comes as hundreds gathered outside Rio Tinto’s Perth office Tuesday, demanding the resignation of Rio Tinto Iron Ore Chief Executive, Chris Salisbury, WA Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Ben Wyatt, and Federal Minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt.

Protestors also called for a 100-kilometre buffer zone around the Juukan Gorge caves to prevent further damage to the significant cultural sites.

By Hannah Cross