Rio Tinto share price slides amid concerns of a Juukan Gorge repeat

Shareholders are hoping Rio Tinto learned its lesson from the Juukan Gorge blasts.

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The Rio Tinto Ltd (ASX: RIO) share price is taking a hit on Friday.

Shares in the S&P/ASX 200 Index (ASX: XJO) iron ore miner closed yesterday trading for $115.90. At time of writing shares are swapping hands for $113.47, down 2.2%.

For some context, the ASX 200 is down 1.1% today as global investors digest the concept of higher interest rates for longer.

So, why is the mining giant falling twice as hard as the benchmark index?

ASX 200 miner faces Juukan Gorge repeat

Atop the broader market sell-off, there look to be two additional headwinds pressuring the Rio Tinto share price today.

First, the iron ore price slumped 3.6% overnight to be trading for US$117.40 per tonne. That's down from just over US$125 per tonne at the start of the week.

That sees the BHP Group Ltd (ASX: BHP) share price down 1.4% today. The Fortescue Metals Group Ltd (ASX: FMG) share price is also down 1.4%.

But the Rio Tinto share price could be getting hit for another reason.

It's been more than three years now (May 2020) since Rio Tinto admitted to destroying ancient Indigenous rock shelters after setting off explosives in Western Australia's Juukan Gorge.

The unfortunate incident resulted in major brand damage for the ASX 200 miner. And, two years later, it saw the creation of the Juukan Gorge Legacy Foundation.

On its website, Rio Tinto states:

In November 2022 we signed a remedy agreement with the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura Aboriginal Corporation and agreed to create the Juukan Gorge Legacy Foundation…

Under the agreement, we will provide financial support to the foundation to progress major cultural and social projects including a new keeping place for storage of important cultural materials.

Potentially adding pressure to the Rio Tinto share price today, it appears that the miner may have recently made a similar mistake.

As ABC News reports, the miner has confirmed that blasting its Western Australia Nammuldi iron ore mine in August damaged another ancient rock shelter.

Rio Tinto said that a boulder and tree had fallen from above the cave mouth. But unlike the destruction at Juukan Gorge, the miner doesn't believe there is any significant structural damage to this shelter.

The company said it's apologised to the local Muntulgura Guruma people and is engaging with them on the issue.

Rio Tinto share price snapshot

Despite today's slide, the Rio Tinto share price remains up 22% over the past year.

Motley Fool contributor Bernd Struben has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. 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 Scott Phillips.

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