Rio Tinto collaborates on ground breaking environmental initiative in India

28 January 2014

Rio Tinto collaborates on ground breaking environmental initiative in India

Rio Tinto has announced a significant new partnership aimed at protecting India's critically endangered vulture species and maintaining the biodiversity of the Madhya Pradesh region of India.

In the first partnership of its kind in the mining industry in India, Rio Tinto has signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the Bombay Natural History Society to support a number of wildlife management initiatives over a five year period.

Dr Nik Senapati, managing director of Rio Tinto India said, "The negative effect of the declining vulture population on the economy, public health and culture in India cannot be underestimated. Rio Tinto is delighted to partner with the esteemed Bombay Natural History Society and we look forward to a long and fruitful collaboration."

Vultures are a critical part of the food chain. By removing rotten meat and bones they maintain a balanced ecosystem and prevent the unnecessary spread of disease. The dramatic decline in the Indian vulture population is directly linked to animal husbandry practices, namely the use of the pain killer, Diclofenac, to treat cattle. This pain killer poisons the vultures when they eat the carcasses of cattle. In under a decade vulture numbers in India have decreased by up to 99%, the fastest decline of any bird ever reported.

Dr Rahmani Director of the Bombay natural History Society said, "this project is of international significance and sets a new benchmark in saving critically endanger species of vultures."

The central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, home to Rio Tinto's developing Bunder diamond project, has a thriving population of birdlife and is a natural habitat for vultures. Together with Birdlife International and the Bombay Natural History Society, a 100 kilometre vulture "safety zone" will be established in Madhya Pradesh. The expectation is that this will protect wild vultures and in the future, vultures from captive breeding centres in India could be re-introduced into the wild. Over time this would revert back to being a self-supporting population.

Mr Tarun Malkani, chief operating officer of Rio Tinto Diamonds in India said, "Rio Tinto is playing a leading role in helping determine how wildlife must be protected. This partnership is a reflection of our long term commitment to Madhya Pradesh and the way we work with the government, local partners and industry experts."

About the Bunder diamond project

The Bunder diamond project was discovered in 2004 by Rio Tinto and in 2010 a State Support Agreement was signed with Government of Madhya Pradesh as an endorsement of the mutual commitment to the development of the project. The Government of Madhya Pradesh gave in principle approval to the issue of a mining lease for the Bunder project via a "Letter of Intent" in January 2012. Mine plan approval was obtained in July 2013 and Rio Tinto is now working on the environmental and forestry approvals required to execute a Mining Lease. Once developed the Bunder diamond mine is expected to place Madhya Pradesh in the top ten diamond producing regions of the world.

About Rio Tinto Diamonds

Rio Tinto is one of the world's major diamond producers through its 100 per cent control of the Argyle mine in Australia, 60 per cent of the Diavik mine in Canada, a 78 per cent interest in the Murowa mine in Zimbabwe. These three mines allow Rio Tinto to produce diamonds for all market segments. Rio Tinto's share of the production from its three operating mines is sold through its Diamonds Sales and Marketing office in Antwerp, Belgium with representative offices in Mumbai, Hong Kong and New York. Rio Tinto Diamonds is a leading supporter of the Kimberley Process, a founding member of Responsible Jewellery Council and the first mining company to be certified by the Responsible Jewellery Council. Website:

For further information, please contact:

Robyn Ellison
Communications Manager
Rio Tinto Diamonds
Mobile: +61 (0) 417 968 359

Kamal Kant
Manager, External Affairs
Bunder project
Mobile: +91 786 995 9587