• Protesters attend a rally outside the Rio Tinto office in Perth in June. (AAP)Source: AAP
BHP and Fortescue have rejected a moratorium on disturbing, destroying or desecrating Aboriginal cultural heritage in the wake of Rio Tinto's destruction of ancient rock shelters at Juukan Gorge.
Keira Jenkins

17 Sep 2020 - 10:49 AM  UPDATED 21 Sep 2020 - 10:29 AM

BHP and Fortescue Metals Group have rejected calls for a moratorium on disturbing cultural heritage sites in the wake of the destruction of ancient rock shelters at Juukan Gorge by Rio Tinto.

Shareholders, as well as the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility asked the mining giants to adopt a moratorium on mining that would 'disturb, destroy or desecrate' cultural heritage sites.

Both companies refused, with Fortescue saying the moratorium would 'disempower' Aboriginal people.

“The moratorium, proposed by people unfamiliar with the West Australian mining industry, is not supported by Fortescue as it would disempower local Aboriginal people in the Pilbara and limit the positive contribution the mining industry is making to the state and national economies, at a time when it is needed most," Fortescue said in a statement.

While BHP's board said they could also not support the moratorium.

“This has the unintended consequence of disempowering traditional owner groups to manage their cultural heritage consistent with the principle of self-determination,” an AGM notice from BHP's board said.

“No matter how well intentioned, the board cannot recommend a vote in favour of a resolution that would have this effect. Nor can the board support a resolution that could have the effect of setting a precedent for such outcomes in the resources sector more broadly.”

BHP is due to appear at the inquiry into Rio TInto's destruction of the 46,000-year-old rock shelters at Juukan Gorge on Thursday. 

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