BHP reports damage to culturally significant Aboriginal site in the Pilbara

BHP has reported damage to a culturally significant Aboriginal site near one of its iron ore mines in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, nine months after Rio Tinto accidentally destroyed ancient rock shelters in the same region.

While the Juukan Gorge incident occurred when Rio was attempting to expand its nearby mining operation in the area, BHP said it was unclear whether mining activity caused the damage near the US$4 billion South Flank mine – on land owned by the indigenous Banyjima community.

“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,” said BHP president for minerals Australia Edgar Basto. “This site is not part of current mining operations — the cause of the rock fall is not known,” he continued.

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.

Meanwhile, a BHP media spokesperson stressed that the incident was unlike Rio’s Juukan Gorge blast, which drew widespread international condemnation in May 2020.