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AFL call means Rio Tinto has lost ‘social licence’: Indigenous leader

The loss of a partnership with the AFL would show that mining giant Rio Tinto had lost the company’s “social licence” in Australia, according to leading Indigenous academic and activist Professor Marcia Langton.

Langton, the foundation chair in Indigenous studies at Melbourne University in faculty of medicine, said the AFL and the NRL were leaders in “closing the gap”, with up to 12 per cent of their players having Indigenous backgrounds and called an AFL withdrawal from Rio Tinto “an acute sign” that the company had lost its social licence.

Professor Marcia Langton says the end to the partnership would show Rio Tinto has lost its "social licence".

Professor Marcia Langton says the end to the partnership would show Rio Tinto has lost its “social licence”.Credit:Arsineh Houspian

“If they’ve been deserted by the AFL, then they’ve lost their social licence to operate [in Australia],” said Langton, responding to The Age‘s report on Tuesday that the AFL was set to end a decade-long partnership with Rio Tinto over the company’s destruction of a sacred site in the Pilbara at Juukan Gorge in Western Australia in May – a decision, yet to be officially ratified, that will cost the AFL close to $1.5 million’s worth of Indigenous programs and sponsorship unless it finds a replacement.

Langton, who has made two submissions to the senate inquiry into the Rio Tinto incident and has had extensive experience in the mining industry’s relationship with Indigenous people, said to operate a “social licence” meant having “the standing and approval of the Australian people and the Australian government in how they operate”.

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