Own BHP shares? Here's what this quiet investigation uncovered

The big miners have pledged to work more closely with Aboriginal landowners.

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A group of three men in hard hats and high visibility vests stand together at a mine site while one points and the others look on with piles of dirt and mining equipment in the background.

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Key points

  • BHP shares are charging higher today
  • The ASX 200 miner reveals the results of its heritage site destruction investigation
  • It says its processes and controls are strengthened

BHP Group Ltd (ASX: BHP) shares are charging higher today, up 3.63% to $49.07 per share at the time of writing.

That well outpaces the 1.0% gain posted by the S&P/ASX 200 Index (ASX: XJO) at this same time.

It comes amid reports Australia's largest mining company has finalised its investigation into the damage of a culturally signficant site in the Pilbara.

Below, we take a look at BHP's 'Juukan Gorge moment' and how the incident has been quietly resolved.

Historical blasting cops the blame

It's been just over a year since a rock shelter, a culturally significant Aboriginal heritage site, collapsed at a BHP mine in Western Australia in January, 2021.

It came less than a year after the more-publicised Rio Tinto Limited (ASX:RIO) destruction of the Juukan Gorge caves, also in the Pilbara, in May 2020.

Rio Tinto's investigation into the incident ultimately led to the resignation of the company's chair, its CEO and two senior executives.

BHP also undertook an investigation. But if you haven't heard much about the incident, you're not alone.

Now, The Australian reports, BHP confirmed on Sunday that "it had quietly finalised the investigation into the destruction of the registered heritage site six months ago".

The cause of the shelter's roof collapse looks to be historical blasting taking place from 2013-2016, rather than management failures in the immediate leadup to the heritage destruction. The miner said that under its new heritage policies, that historic blasting would not have taken place.

According to the report on the incident:

Heavy blasting close to the rock-shelter in the 2013 to 2016 period, which would have resulted in high and very high vibration levels at the site of the rock shelter, would have caused weakening and displacement of pre-existing rock discontinuities and joints.

This historic weakening left the rock shelter more vulnerable to blasting taking place at other parts of the project, with BHP noting the heritage site was not close to any current operations.

As BHP had approval from the Western Australia government to operate in the area, the company was not subject to any legal actions for the rock shelter's collapse.

According to The Australian, "The results of the external review [were] handed to the Banjima Native Title Aboriginal Corporation (BNTAC) in August. The full report was not made public at the request of traditional owners."

How have BHP shares been performing?

BHP shares have strongly outperformed so far in 2022.

Boosted in part by resurgent iron ore prices, the BHP share price is up 18% year-to-date, compared to a loss of around 5% posted by the ASX 200.

The Motley Fool Australia's parent company Motley Fool Holdings Inc. has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.

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