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Rio Tinto said on Monday it has agreed a heritage protection plan with an Indigenous group for a project in West Australia as it looks to avoid a repeat of the backlash it faced for destroying the sacred Juukan Gorge rock shelters.

In a statement, the company said the agreement, with the Yinhawangka Aboriginal Corporation (YAC), will ensure a new co-designed management plan protects social and cultural heritage values in Rio's proposed development of the Western Range iron ore project in the Pilbara region.

Rio said the collaboration would ensure the mines were designed to reduce impacts on social and cultural heritage. Decisions on environmental matters and mine planning will be made jointly with the Yinhawangka people, it said.

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The announcement follows a massive public and investor uproar following Rio's destruction of the 46,000-year-old Juukan Gorge rock shelters in Western Australia for an iron ore mine. That uproar led to the departure of top executives including former Chief Executive Officer Jean-Sebastien Jacques and the Chairman Simon Thompson.

"We know we haven't always got this right in the past. We have learned and continue to learn a lot from this co-designed process which is the manner in which we want to work with all Traditional Owners," said Rio Tinto Iron Ore Chief Executive Simon Trott.

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