Traditional owners call for special allowances as pollies delay Pilbara trip due to WA's hard border


“To date, Rio Tinto and others have been given a voice and public stage to present their views on the disaster. The same courtesy has been denied to us by this delay,” he said.

Mr Ashburton said it was now three months since the blasts, and he called on the committee to urgently reschedule the visit so politicians could see first-hand the destruction at the site and the group could present its submission.

“Prolonging this investigation only serves to further deepen our hurt and anguish about the irretrievable loss of connection to our ancestors and our country,” he said.

“The community deserves the full facts of the Juukan Gorge disaster be told in a timely manner to ensure this kind of tragedy never happens again.”

The PKKP said while it understood the decision to postpone was not the committee’s fault, it believed special allowances should be made to allow the politicians to visit the site given the “national and global importance” of the inquiry.

Also on Thursday, Rio Tinto’s top brass were in crisis talks over the reputational damage to the company that has only escalated since May.


The futures of Rio Tinto chief executive Jean-Sébastien Jacques, WA iron ore head Chris Salisbury and other bosses hang in the balance as an investor campaign calling for accountability over the incident gains traction.

Across the Pilbara ranges, Rio Tinto’s neighbours have announced the establishment of a joint council with the Banjima people to provide input into the planning of its South Flank project.

BHP halted parts of its South Flank expansion plans to reengage with the Banjima group after it was revealed it had received ministerial approval to destroy 40 heritage sites, just days after the Juukan Gorge blast.

BHP President Minerals Australia Edgar Basto said the establishment of the council would ensure on-going, high-level dialogue on important cultural heritage and other matters.

Banjima elder and corporation chair Maitland Parker said the council opened an important line of communication between Banjima Elders and BHP.

“We want to ensure that we continue to strike the right balance between social and economic benefits and protection of our heritage. We must consider the benefits and impact, not only for the current generation but also future generations,” he said.

WA Premier Mark McGowan was contacted for comment.

Hamish Hastie is WAtoday’s business reporter.

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