Mining giant Rio Tinto Ltd destroyed two ancient and sacred rock shelters in the Pilbara region of Western Australia as part of an iron ore mine expansion in late May. The blasts, while legal, deeply distressed the traditional owners and led to a public outcry and national inquiry, ultimately costing three top executives their jobs. They also increased investor pressure on the industry to address heritage management practices. The parliamentary inquiry is due to report Dec. 9. May 24: World's biggest iron ore miner destroys the rock shelters in the Juukan Gorge, one of which showed evidence of continual human habitation dating back 46,000 years. May 27: Rio Tinto issues a statement saying it is sorry that the "recently expressed concerns" of the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura (PKKP) people did not arise during discussions. PKKP on June 5 rejects that characterisation and says the significance of Juukan Gorge had long been emphasized. June 11: Rival BHP Group says it would not disturb any sites around a planned $2.9 billion South Flank expansion in Western Australia without further study and consultation with traditional owners to better understand the cultural significance of the area. June 11: Australian Senate refers the Juukan Gorge incident to the Joint Standing Committee on Northern Australia for an inquiry. June 12: Rio Tinto Chief Executive Jean-S,
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