The destruction of significant Indigenous sites in Western Australia is “routine” for mining companies, the former President of the Australian Archaeological Association says.

The planned destruction of sacred sites in the Pilbara last month by mining giant Rio Tinto left traditional owners devastated and has outraged many Australians.

The cave sites had shown human occupation dating back at least 46,000 years and were among the oldest heritage sites in Western Australia.

In comparison a famous cave site in France with rock art dating back around 17,000 years was inducted into the UNESCO world heritage sites list in 1979 and has been closed off to the public since the 1960s to avoid damage to the art.

Archaeologist Fiona Hook told the ABC, the destruction of the site in the Pilbara was not surprising, despite its unique value.

Picture: Puutu Kunti Kurrama And Pinikura Aboriginal Corporation