BHP and Aboriginal group probe fallen rock shelter in Western Australia

The South Flank project (Image courtesy of BHP.)

BHP Group has launched a joint investigation with an Indigenous group into what caused a rock fall at a culturally significant rock shelter at its iron ore operations in Western Australia, both groups said.

BHP discovered the damage to the site of significance to the Banjima people on Jan. 29, as part of monitoring at its Mining Area C operations. It informed its Banjima partners and the groups agreed to set up a probe into the incident, BHP President Minerals Australia, Edgar Basto said in a statement.

“This site is not part of current mining operations. The cause of this rock fall is not known,” Basto said in a statement late on Tuesday.

Mining Area C is part of BHP’s $3.4 billion South Flank replacement project in the state’s Pilbara region.

Miners are facing closer scrutiny over what they do to protect sacred Indigenous sites in the wake of Rio Tinto’s destruction of two ancient, sacred rock shelters at Juukan Gorge last May. The mining company had obtained a permit to destroy the sites.

Basto and Brandon Craig, head of BHP’s Western Australian iron ore operations, met with Banjima Elders as part of the Banjima Heritage Advisory Council that BHP set up last year following the Juukan Gorge incident.

“We will continue to work with the Banjima in a spirit of respect and cooperation,” BHP said.

The Banjima Native Title Aboriginal Corporation said that it had met with BHP executives on Feb. 11 to clarify details in an initial report, and carry the investigation forward.

(By Melanie Burton; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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