Pilbara mining blast destroys 46,000yo sites of ‘staggering’ significance

Rio Tinto has detonated explosives destroying sites of cultural importance in the western Pilbara region that date back over 46,000 years.

Located in the Hammersley Ranges the cave in Juukan Gorge , the inland site is one of the oldest in Australia showing signs of continual human occupation through the last ice age.

With the detonations taking place over the weekend, and on Tuesday, a spokesperson for Rio Tinto had confirmed its ancient rock shelters were destroyed.

“[Rio Tinto] has, where practicable, modified its operations to avoid heritage impacts and to protect places of cultural significance to the group.”

Traditional owners Puutu Kunti Kurruma, have been left devastated by the loss of the 46,000-year-old cultural site saying they only found out about the Government sanctioned mining blasts by accident.

The mega mining company had received ministerial consent to destroy or damage the site in 2013 under WA’s outdated Aboriginal heritage laws, which were drafted in 1972.[citation: ABC]

Burchell Hayes, a Puutu Kunti Kurruma traditional owner states that the community is saddened that something holds a deep connection with its people by the destruction of a heritage site.

“That site, for us, that’s where our ancestors were occupying their traditional land,” he said.

“From generation to generation stories have been passed down to us around that occupation”.

“Even going through and doing excavations in those areas; to find the plaited hair and the artefacts and how they have been dated back to over 46,000 years — it’s something we will always remember.”

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