The site, in the Juukan gorge, in the Pilbara region, rich in resources from the state of Western Australia, featured two cave systems that contained artifacts that indicated tens of thousands of years of continuous human occupation.
The demolition on May 24 continued despite a seven-year battle by local land keepers, the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and the Pinikura people, to protect the site.
“We thank the people of Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura (PKKP),” said Chris Salisbury, CEO of Rio Tinto Iron Ore, in a note released on Sunday.
“We are sorry for the anguish we have caused. Our relationship with the PKKP is very important for Rio Tinto, who has worked together for many years,” said the note.
“We will continue to work with the PKKP to learn from what has happened and strengthen our partnership. As a matter of urgency, we are reviewing the plans of all the other sites in the Juukan gorge area.”
According to 7News, spokesman Burchell Hayes of Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura Aboriginal Corporation reported that the importance of the site was told in Rio Tinto last October.
“The high significance of the site was further transmitted to Rio Tinto by the PKKPAC recently in March,” said Hayes.
He said the group only found out about Rio Tinto’s intentions on May 15. CNN Business contacted Rio Tinto for comment on Hayes’ comments and was redirected to the company’s statement.
Federal Minister of Indigenous Affairs Ken Wyatt said that “destruction should not have taken place,” adding that he had personally spoken to the traditional owners of the land.
“It is incredibly important that this no longer happens,” said Wyatt, an indigenous Australian.
“The state government of Western Australia must ensure that their legislation and approval processes protect our indigenous cultural heritage. It seems clear enough that the legislation has failed in this case.”
Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, the country’s first leader to apologize to generations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait islands children snatched from parents by Australian whites last century, said that “Rio’s corporate arrogance Tinto has robbed all Australians. “
“The shelters of the Juukan gorge [are] nine times older than Stonehenge, 23 times older than the Colosseum and 75 times older than Machu Picchu, “he published on his official Twitter account.