Leading mining company, Rio Tinto, has reportedly warned that the regulatory repercussions of the destruction of Juukan Gorge rock shelters still remain unknown and can possibly affect its ability to expedite the exports of iron ore this year as escalating demand from China spurs the prices.
The biggest iron ore miner across Australia has stated that it intends to ship 325 to 340 million tons of steel-making raw material this year after achieving the target of 331 million tons in 2020. However, Rio has advised its investors that the iron ore target remained subject to market conditions, weather, and fallout from its destruction of ancient caves situated in the region of Western Australia's Pilbara last year.
Speaking of the matter, the company has stated that the future impact on its Pilbara iron ore operations, developments of mines and heritage approach from the reform of the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972 are still unknown. The company would be maintaining a strong level of engagement and communication with traditional owners on existing and proposed plans of mining activities, the miner added.
For the uninitiated, last year Rio Tinto had faced an intense political as well as public backlash after it blew up the 46,000 years old Aboriginal rock shelters at Juukan Gorge for expanding its mining operations, going against the wishes of traditional owners of the land and leading to a federal inquiry and resignation of former chief executive Jean-Sebastien Jacques.
In order to restore the trust and relationship with the traditional owners and the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people, the company has reportedly put a halt on the mining of a large area around the gorge. As per the sources of knowledge, Rio along with several other miners are likely witness delay in project approvals this year, as the inquiry suggested to halt the permits issued under WA Aboriginal Heritage Act to impact important sites and to review existing permits.
Apparently, shareholders are querying if the fallout can lead to the slowdown that might affect Rio Tinto’s capacity of iron ore production, just as the prices of steelmaking material reaches record levels and seems to remain strong as China's economy is returning to pre-COVID-19 levels owing to faster deployment of stimulus.