A shot of the Nammuldi rock shelter following the Rio Tinto blasting.[Supplied: Rio Tinto]
Pilbara Traditional Owners have disputed Rio Tinto’s claims that an ancient rock shelter suffered no major damage after a mine blast on August 6.
On Sunday, representatives of the Muntulgura Guruma people and Rio Tinto visited the site in Western Australia – located about 150-metres away from its Nammuldi iron ore mine to assess the damage.
The following day, Rio Tinto employees were told that the inside of the rock shelter was intact.
“Assessments found no structural damage to the rock shelter itself, and no damage to cultural materials,” Rio Tinto said in a statement on Monday.
“We deeply respect the Muntulgura Guruma people and have apologised for this incident. We will continue to work closely together to better understand what has happened.”
However, the Wintawari Guruma Aboriginal Corporation [WGAC] also inspected the rock shelter without Rio Tinto and found the site in a fragile state, saying it was clear that blasting had damaged the site.
WGAC holds fears for 87 other Muntulgura Guruma rock shelters under Rio Tinto’s blast management procedures and says greater oversight by Traditional Owners is needed to stop any future impacts to cultural heritage.
“The site is in a fragile state and it is clear that blasting has had an effect on the rock shelter,” a WGAC spokesperson said.
“What condition are they in? How many others have been impacted?”, adding that Traditional Owners have no input or oversight of the blasts.