CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — An Australian minister likened a mining company blasting ancient rock shelters to the Taliban’s destruction of giant Buddha carvings and vowed Thursday to improve protections of Indigenous cultural heritage.
Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek said Rio Tinto acted lawfully in 2020 when it destroyed two rock shelters in Juukan Gorge in Western Australia state that had been inhabited for 46,000 years.
She said Australia’s laws would be updated to prevent such destruction of Indigenous sacred sites happening again.
“It is unthinkable that any culture would knowingly destroy Stonehenge or the Egyptian pyramids or the Lascaux caves in France,” Plibersek told Parliament.
“When the Bamyan Buddhas were destroyed in Afghanistan, the world was rightly outraged. But that’s precisely what occurred in Juukan Gorge,” she added.
Two 1,500-year-old giant Buddhas carved into a cliffside in the Bamyan Valley in…