OM Manganese caused damage to desecrating an Aboriginal site in Australia’s Northern Territory and was successfully prosecuted in the landmark decision which marks the first time a company has been fined for damaging a sacred place.

The site is a landmark for the Kunapa people. Community representative Gina Smith said “It will always remain a sacred site to us, but it has been ruined and we don’t know what to do because this has never happened to the old people.

“It has been there for thousands of years as part of our culture and our story.”

Blasting by OM Manganese in the area caused the collapse of some of the rock formations in July 2011.

Magistrate Sue Oliver ruled that the company had pursued “business and profit” over their obligation to protect the history of the area.

“The company never intended to harm, damage or disrespect the sacred site.” said OM Holdings boss Peter Toth. 

“We sincerely regret the damage and the hurt caused and I unreservedly apologise to the site’s custodians and traditional owners.”

Ben Scambary, CEO of the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority told AFP “When a sacred site is desecrated or damaged it tears the social fabric of the affected community as the harmony of those people is inherently linked to that sacred site,”

“Sacred sites are important to all Australians as most of this nation’s cultural integrity, historical significance and tourism appeal comes from the 50,000 years that Aboriginal people have been caring for their country, their seas and their sacred sites.”