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Wyatt calls for probe into Rio's destruction of historic site

Politics

Indigenous Affairs Minister Ken Wyatt has declared no Aboriginal site should ever be damaged, after Rio Tinto destroyed ancient West Australian caves dating back 46,000 years.

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Wyatt has ordered an urgent review of state and federal heritage-protection laws and says the current system isn’t good enough.

“No site should ever be damaged,” he told ABC News on Monday.

“When I spoke with the traditional owners, one of them was explaining to me the absolute cultural relevance both those caves had and the destruction of them is like destroying the heart of the community.”

Explosives detonated in the Juukan Gorge last month destroyed two rock shelters, causing great distress to the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people.

Rio Tinto iron ore chief executive Chris Salisbury says the company is sorry and wants to repair its relationship with traditional owners, but refuses to say whether reparations are being considered.

Labor’s Indigenous Affairs spokesman Pat Dodson says the destruction is awful and disgraceful, and argues there should be a moratorium on blasting cultural sites.

He said the problem with the Juukan Gorge caves begins with Rio Tinto’s cultural protocols.

“There’s some heads that have to roll in relation to that,” he told ABC radio.

Dodson says the commonwealth could have launched an injunction to prevent the destruction.

He said he was yet to speak with Wyatt and Environment Minister Sussan Ley about what had happened.

“It’s their obligation as they’re ministers of the crown to look after the interests of the Aboriginal people,” he said.

“And they’ve just failed in their duty.”

-AAP

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