Mining giants Rio Tinto has apologised for blowing up 46,000-year-old Aboriginal caves in Western Australia dating back to the last Ice Age.

The Juukan Gorge cave in the Pilnara region, were destroyed as Rio Tinto expanded an iron ore project that was agreed with the authorities.

Many prehistoric artefacts have been found at the remote heritage site.

Chris Salisbury, the firm’s chief executive, said: “We are sorry for the distress that we have caused.

“We pay our respects to the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura People (PKKP)”.

The PKKP are the original and traditional owners of the cave.

He went on to say: “We will continue to work with the PKKP to learn from what has taken place and strengthen our partnership.

“As a matter of urgency, we are reviewing the plans of all other sites in the Juukan Gorge region”.

Artefacts found there include a belt made from human hair, analysis of which showed a direct link going back 4,000 years between the PKKP and the prehistoric cave-dweller.