• PKKP Traditional Owner Harold Ashburton at the Juukan Gorge site which was destroyed by blasts by Rio Tinto in May 2020. (PKKP Aboriginal Corporation.)Source: PKKP Aboriginal Corporation.
Two explosives companies have changed policies to allow workers to stop blasting if they're worried about the impact on First Nations cultural heritage.
Keira Jenkins

3 Jun 2021 - 2:01 PM  UPDATED 3 Jun 2021 - 2:13 PM

The National Native Title Council has welcomed the move by two explosives companies to allow workers to stop blasting country if they believe it could disturb culturally significant sites.

Explosives companies Dyno Nobel and Orica changed their blasting policies in the wake of the one year anniversary of the destruction at the Juukan Gorge by Rio Tinto.

An inquiry into the blasting of the 46,000 year old rock shelters is ongoing and a number of Rio Tinto's top executives have since left the company.

A spokesperson for Dyno Nobel's parent company, Incitec Pivot, told The Guardian that its refusal to work policy had updated its definitions to include "any instance where an employee believes an unacceptable risk is presented to Indigenous cultural heritage.'

NNTC CEO Jamie Lowe told NITV News the move is representative of a larger shift in how First Nations heritage is perceived.

"I think the Juukan Gorge incident sent a bit of a shockwave through the industry but also through the nation of Australia and internationally," he said.

"Questioning why aren't we valuing these sites of such antiquity as we should do, and we're seeing that with the industry here saying we should be diligent in our approach because we don't want to be the people literally pressing the button to blow up the sites."

Mr Lowe said while this step is welcome, the policy changes cannot replace a commitment to working with First Nations communities.

"As a bottom line, legislative reform needs to take place in all states and jurisdictions, including at the Commonwealth level, to set a baseline of protection," he said.

"But it shouldn't just be a compliance-driven industry, it should be about the investment in the relationship with the community so it's not just about complying with the law."

These commitments shouldn't just be uniform for workers in only the mining industry, according to Mr Lowe.

"It's state governments constructing roads, there's developers, subdivisions for houses happening, where the ground is disturbed," he said.

"Anyone that is doing business on Country needs to value First Nations people and what they want to protect."

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