Health and safety
The Rio Tinto diamond mines operate in locations across the world that are physically, culturally and economically quite diverse, with each presenting their own particular operational challenges. The cold and icy Diavik mine in Canada’s Northwestern Territories, for example, has different health, safety and environmental challenges to the tropical, monsoonal climate of the East Kimberley region in Western Australia, where the Argyle mine is located. What all of our sites do have in common, however, is a strong safety culture; all observe internationally established safety standards (against which they are regularly audited) and all staff are encouraged to take a strong personal approach to safety, actively identifying and eliminating risks in their own operating environments. Safety incidents and near-misses are reported and analysed, and measures put in place to help prevent their reoccurrence.
To help address the broader health and wellbeing of our workforces, our mines offer onsite health services, wellness programs, fitness and recreational facilities and run health promotion campaigns. As well as raising awareness of workplace health and safety risks such as alcohol and other drug use, fatigue and stress, these services encourage staff to seek support for particular health issues and encourage them to pursue activities that will benefit their overall health. Community outreach programs are designed to build awareness of how these communicable diseases are spread, decrease the social stigmatisation for sufferers, and encourage more people to get tested.
Wherever we mine for diamonds, we are committed to minimising our impact on the local environment, leaving behind as small a footprint as possible once operations have closed.
Each of our mines complies with the environmental legislation of its host country. In addition, each is audited against the ISO140000 international environmental management system that promotes continual improvement and ongoing review of environmental targets and performance – addressing environmental issues such as the efficient use of water and energy, protection of the quality of surface and groundwater supplies, air quality, waste management, the protection of rare and endangered species, the protection of indigenous heritage sites and the rehabilitation of mined areas before and after closure of the site.
We are also very focused on protecting the traditional lifestyles of local communities, consulting closely with them to better understand how they interact with the environment, determining the issues that are important to them, and developing projects to improve local environmental outcomes. This is often enhanced by research collaborations with local universities.
At the Argyle mine in the remote East Kimberley region of Western Australia, for example, Rio Tinto is working with local Aboriginal people to rehabilitate areas disturbed by mining in ways that will be directly advantageous to them. Native plant species that are important to their culture, health and diet – and that have been in short supply or in near-extinction in recent times – are being reintroduced to the landscape, with significant work being done to understand the conditions under which they flourish. This enhanced species knowledge is being captured in maps, catalogues and databases for the benefit of future generations.
Similarly, at the Diavik mine in the Northwest Territories of Canada, Rio Tinto is working to ensure that no damage is done to the water resources that provide a habitat for local wildlife (particularly caribou) that are so important to the traditional lifestyles and culture of local Aboriginal people. Local knowledge and involvement is being drawn on to ensure the water quality in the lakes and drainage systems is preserved, new fish habitats are created in the lakes around the mine site and the annual migration of caribou through the area is not impeded. At the same time, studies by Canadian universities are helping to monitor a range of environmental issues, including the impact of mine blasts on fish.