Mining giant BHP has reported damage to a culturally significant site in Western Australia’s iron ore-rich Pilbara region, months after Rio Tinto drew international criticism for destroying ancient rock shelters at Juukan Gorge.
BHP President for Minerals Australia Edgar Basto said the company discovered fallen rocks near its mining operations on Banyjima land in January, but he said it was unclear whether mining caused the damage.
“On 29 January 2021, as part of monitoring in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, we identified a rock fall at a registered Banyjima site,” Mr Basto said.
“This site is not part of current mining operations – the cause of the rock fall is not known.”
"On 29 January 2021… we identified a rock fall at a registered Banyjima site. This site is not part of current mining operations — the cause of the rock fall is not known."
BHP reports damage to Aboriginal heritage site at Pilbara iron ore mine.https://t.co/YMr8jNDdyX
— ABC Indigenous (@ABCIndigenous) February 23, 2021
The damage was located near the $4 billion South Flank mine site, about 130 kilometres north-west of Newman in WA’s north.
A Banyjima Native Title Aboriginal spokesperson said traditional owners were working with BHP to investigate the incident.
“Banyjima’s South Flank Heritage Committee met with BHP executives on 11 February to process the investigation,” they said.
A BHP media spokesperson said the incident was unlike Rio Tinto’s Juukan Gorge blast, which drew international condemnation when it destroyed the site in May 2020.
The spokesperson said the damage was promptly reported and was unintentional.