In March 2015, Rio Tinto announced an initiative to free up one of the world’s great wilderness areas – an important step in supporting the Western Australian Government’s plans to establish Australia’s largest national park.

Rio Tinto and joint venture partner Alcoa agreed to terminate a historic State Agreement Act intended to facilitate the mining of bauxite and the development of an alumina refinery in the north Kimberley region of Western Australia.

The area is internationally recognised for its rich flora and fauna, tourist attractions such as the spectacular Mitchell and Merthen Falls and Indigenous rock art dating back over 40,000 years.

“All of us at Rio Tinto are very proud to be able to encourage the Government’s ambition to establish a new National Park in the Kimberley region, with this significant addition to the conservation area,” Sam said.

“The Kimberley National Park can now include the Mitchell Plateau area, where Rio Tinto and other mining companies have undertaken exploration since the early 1970s.”

Terminating this Agreement will allow more than 175,000 hectares of land on the Mitchell Plateau to be included in the proposed Kimberley National Park. Intended to be Australia’s largest national park, it will cover over two million hectares across the Kimberley and will see the Western Australian Government and Traditional Owners continue to work together to create and jointly manage the park.

On 24 March, Premier Colin Barnett introduced new legislation to State Parliament to terminate the State Agreement from 1971, the end result of working closely with Rio Tinto over several years.

The Mitchell Plateau area symbolises everything that is special about our state

Sam Walsh, chief executive

"Premier Barnett has made it a priority to preserve the environmental and cultural heritage values of this area as an asset for the people of Western Australia and visitors to the state," Sam said.

“We are very pleased to be able to support this outcome as the Mitchell Plateau area symbolises everything that is special about our state.”

Sam went on to explain that this decision supports Rio Tinto's longstanding and ongoing commitment as a member of the Western Australian community – one that goes back half a century.

"It demonstrates that caring for the environment, protecting cultural heritage and making a positive contribution to society are much more than just words – these are strong values that guide our business."

In Western Australia Rio Tinto is well-known for its iron ore, Argyle Diamond and salt operations. In this state alone, the company employs 14,000 people and in 2014 paid A$1.8 billion in royalties and some A$50 million in financial and in-kind support for community contributions.