The most shocking thing about Rio Tinto Group’s demolition of a 46,000-year-old Aboriginal site in Australia’s remote Pilbara region is how commonplace it was.

The Pilbara is source of about half of the world’s traded iron ore, worth about $65 billion a year. It’s also a crucial area of world heritage, home to the world’s largest collection of art from before the last ice age — a complex of thousands of sites and hundreds of thousands of individual rock carvings. Digging iron ore out of the ground and carrying it to port inevitably involves conflicts between miners and the Aboriginal traditional owners. So far, the miners have won every time.

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