Traditional Owners of the ancient rock shelter blown up by Rio Tinto are hopeful a new deal with the mining giant will prevent a repeat of the 2020 Juukan Gorge tragedy which led to global outcry.

PKKP Aboriginal Corporation on Friday morning revealed a new agreement had been struck with Rio Tinto to improve heritage management for the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people.

The deal, while non-binding, will see PKKP people given greater control and involvement over mining activities on their land.

Rio Tinto has also promised to improve communication and clearly delineate mine areas for which the various PKKP people speak.

PKKP chairman Burchell Hayes said the past two years had been, and would continue to be,
incredibly painful for the PKKP people.

“This agreement provides clear acknowledgement that Rio Tinto accepts that the destruction of the rock shelters should not have happened and makes clear that it is absolutely committed to listening, learning, changing and co-managing country,” Mr Hayes said.

“While the agreement is non-binding, we believe it is a clear signal of intent from Rio Tinto and one that will ultimately be tested in the co-management agreement that is reached.”

While legal under WA’s problematic heritage laws, Rio Tinto was subjected to global condemnation for blowing up Juukan Gorge in 2020.

The public outcry led to a complete shake-up of the miner’s senior management, culminating in the replacement of then-chief executive Jean-Sebastien Jacques.

Rio Tinto iron ore chief executive Simon Trott said the agreement was an important step to rebuilding relations with the PKKP people.

“The PKKP people have graciously shared their knowledge to help inform our approach to best practice management and protection of cultural heritage as well as how we can deliver better social and economic outcomes on the ground,” he said.

“Our discussions on these matters continue as we work to create a shared future.“Our company continues to reflect on the loss and hurt that we caused at Juukan Gorge which was a clear breach of our values.”

Mr Trott said the miner had a responsibility to listen to and respect Indigenous voices.