MELBOURNE (Reuters) – The BHP Group has launched a joint investigation with Indigenous groups into what caused the rock fall in a rock shelter that is culturally important at its iron ore operations in Western Australia, the two groups said.
BHP discovered important site damage for the Banjima community on January 29, as part of monitoring at Mining Area C operations. It informed its Banjima partner and the groups agreed to carry out an investigation into the incident, President of BHP Minerals Australia, said Edgar Basto in a statement.
“This site is not part of the current mining operation. The cause of the fall is unknown, “Basto said in a statement late Tuesday.
Mining Area C is part of BHP’s $ 3.4 billion South Flank replacement project in the state’s Pilbara region.
The miners face closer scrutiny over what they are doing to protect sacred Indigenous sites after Rio Tinto’s destruction of two ancient sacred rock shelters in Juukan Gorge last May. The mining company has obtained permission to destroy the site.
Basto and Brandon Craig, head of BHP’s West Australia iron ore operations, met Elder Banjima as part of the Banjima Heritage Advisory Council that BHP formed last year after the Juukan Gorge incident.
“We will continue to work with Banjima in a spirit of mutual respect and cooperation,” said BHP.
The Banjima Native Title Aboriginal Corporation said it met with BHP executives on February 11 to clarify details in the initial report, and are continuing the investigation.
Reporting by Melanie Burton; Edited by Simon Cameron-Moore