Family in the Pilbara community

Pilbara Communities

Keeping each other safe

28 March 2020

There are many things we can and are doing to keep our employees, contractors and partners safe across our iron ore operations in Western Australia. These include the following:

  • Demobilising some personnel from sites to reduce the potential health risk of exposure to these people
  • Travel restrictions and mandatory isolation requirements for those who have recently travelled or feel unwell
  • Pre-screening and temperature testing before flights for all workforce members going to site
  • Extended and enhanced emergency response procedures
  • Contact tracing and case management procedures, guided by the Department of Health
  • On-call service for any of our workforce to return to their home location in the event of a health or family emergency
  • Support for vulnerable members of the workforce through leader conversations and special leave
  • Changes to bus services in the Pilbara to allow for increased social distancing protocols. This includes mobilising a larger fleet to enable reduced passenger capacity on individual buses, and more regular cleaning of high touch-point areas such as handrails
  • Social distancing measures at sites including reduced numbers in dining halls
  • Increased working from home arrangements to minimise people’s interactions wherever possible; additional cleaning and sanitation across offices, facilities and shared equipment
  • The closure of all bars, indoor gyms and swimming pools at mining camp sites
  • Increased focus on personal hygiene practices to stop the spread of COVID-19

We will be introducing additional measures to support our operations including the following:

  • COVID-19 screening tests for all of our people flying to site
  • Strict protocols for controlling access to our sites stopping any movement other than logistics deliveries
  • Working with local towns to build on the existing protocols for social distancing

Fly In, Fly Out (FIFO) and Other Travel

We have halted all non-essential work-related travel, instead asking teams to connect in other ways, such as WebEx or Skype, and most of our office-based teams are working from home.

We have also changed our FIFO roster to protect our people and communities. 

“We recognise it is a big ask for our people to be away from families on a different roster pattern at short notice and we will do everything we can to support them during these difficult times.”

Chris Salisbury
Chief Executive, Iron Ore


At the same time, we continue to introduce further key measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 such as screening tests for all of our people flying to site; strict protocols for controlling access to our sites stopping any movement other than logistics deliveries; on call service for our workforce to return home for health or family emergencies; new social distancing measures on bus services and at site; additional cleaning for shared facilities and equipment; and the closure of all bars, gyms and pools at mining camp sites. We are also working with local towns, governments and community agencies to build on the existing protocols for social distancing.

In addition, we have instituted additional hygiene practices and cleaning for our FIFO employees. Examples of these include the following:

  • Mandatory hygiene practices when entering buses, recreational areas, dining areas etc
  • Mandatory cleaning of gym equipment following use (note this applies only to gyms that remain open, per guidelines above)
  • Additional cleaning and disinfection regimes focussing on high touch point areas, recreational, dining and crib areas etc
  • Good hand and sneeze/cough hygiene and provide hand sanitising/washing facilities for all workers
Find out more about our response to the COVID-19 pandemic across our business >


Taxes & Royalties (Total)


Government Royalties


Other Taxes & Payments


Employer Payroll Taxes


Community Investment


Community Programmes

2018 figures

In 2018, we invested $19.71 million in 163 community programmes and provided $4.22 million of in-kind support.

Our community investment also contributes to communities in the Pilbara, together with our partners. We encourage proposals that provide lasting benefit to the community and prioritise support for initiatives that align with our priority areas: education, environment, health and community liveability.

The Rio Tinto Indigenous Scholarship Programme aims to support Indigenous people who are studying at tertiary (university – bachelor degree or higher) level.

  • Colours of our Country
  • Community Investment Funding
  • Employees in the Community
  • Fly-In, Fly- Out Employment
  • Indigenous Employment
  • Indigenous Scholarship Programme

Colours of our Country

The Pilbara has a rich history and a vibrant artistic heart: the land and its Traditional Owners are home to generations of stories, ceremony and culture. Since 2006, the Colours of our Country exhibition has provided people in Perth with a small snapshot of these stories and customs – 1,500 kilometres away from the magnificent landscapes that influence so many of the works on show.

Colours of our Country is more than an exhibition. It creates economic development opportunities for the featured artists, supports the ongoing sustainability of art groups and artists and provides an outlet for cultural expression.

Over 14 years, the exhibition has sold 2,500 artworks generating more than A$2.59 million for local artists, their art groups and their communities. Every year, our business gifts artwork to the Art Gallery of Western Australia for the State Art Collection, which now contains 22 artworks by 11 Pilbara Indigenous artists.

Colours of our Country artist

Community Investment Funding

Applying for Community Investment Funding in Western Australia

We are proud of our history of pioneering progress around the world, including more than 50 years of operating and contributing in Western Australia. We encourage proposals and prioritise support for initiatives that align with our priority areas: education, environment, health and community liveability. 

Supported Projects

Projects we support should meet the following criteria:

  • Have a clear project plan, objectives, timelines, budget and goals
  • Align with Rio Tinto business values, adhering to The way we work and our Business Integrity Standard
  • Benefit communities which neighbour our operations or where our employees live and work
  • Be from community groups, charitable or not-for-profit organisations or local government organisations in the Pilbara and regional source towns
  • Align with our strategic priorities and meet an identified need
  • Actively engage and leverage Rio Tinto funding and be transparent in reporting
  • Promote skills development and build community capacity
  • Be sustainable beyond our financial support

Unsupported Projects

Projects we generally do not support are those that fit the following parameters:

  • Do not align with Rio Tinto business policies, values and The way we work
  • Primarily focus on capital works
  • Are from private companies that operate for profit and/or are seeking finance for commercial activities
  • Individual appeals by or on behalf of individuals for personal benefit, including the support of travel, study or fundraising
  • Are for mainstream government services traditionally funded by the government
  • Are for activities and events that have already occurred
  • Are for activities linked to political, partisan, religious or sectarian associations
  • Are for activities that are or may be construed as racially prejudiced or discriminatory
  • Our community investment and engagement teams assess funding requests, which are prioritised according to the location of impact and alignment with priority areas

Employees in the Community

Our employees are passionate about giving back to their communities and we support that passion through our two “Employees in the Community” initiatives – Dollars for Doers and Team Rio Tinto.

Dollars for Doers rewards employees who volunteer 50 hours or more of personal time per year for a Western Australia-based community organisation with a $500 grant for their nominated organisation.

Team Rio Tinto encourages groups of employees to take part in community and fundraising activities across Western Australia by funding or matching funding for event registration costs (employees and organisations must meet eligibility criteria). Interested employees can find application packs for both programmes on our corporate intranet.

Fly-In, Fly-Out Employment

Our fly in-fly out (FIFO) programme continues to deliver significant economic benefits for regional towns in Western Australia through stable employment and more spending with local businesses.

According to a report by ACIL Allen Consulting, our regional FIFO programme delivered an estimated economic contribution of A$199.4 million to regional towns outside of the Pilbara and Perth last year, an increase of A$14.7 million since 2016.

A growing regional FIFO workforce of more than 2,230 increased spending – purchases from vendors, credit card payments, airport charges, community investments and wages – in regional Western Australia to A$547.9 million in 2018.

Indigenous Employment

We aim to prioritise Indigenous people and in particular, Traditional Owners, in recruitment or internal redeployment opportunities, and the number of Traditional Owners in our business continues to grow. We also focus on career paths, supporting tertiary students and developing opportunities for Indigenous businesses both at Rio Tinto and more broadly.

We have 10 agreements with nine Traditional Owner groups in whose country we operate, and we continue to meet our mining benefits payment obligations.


Indigenous Scholarship & Cadetship Programmes 

Our Indigenous Scholarship programme is aimed at supporting Indigenous people who are studying at a tertiary level. The programme is a direct result of the shared commitment between Rio Tinto and Indigenous groups across the Pilbara.

The programme aims to:

  • Benefit Indigenous people, in particular those belonging to Traditional Owner groups in area of operations within the Pilbara
  • Support Indigenous people in successfully completing tertiary studies
  • Provide a pipeline opportunity of tertiary-qualified Indigenous people for employment at Rio Tinto
  • Contribute towards the sustainable development of the Pilbara region

Indigenous people recognised outside of the Pilbara area are also eligible to apply.

To be eligible for a Rio Tinto Indigenous Scholarship you must:

  • Be an Australian resident
  • Be of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander decent
  • Be able to provide evidence of your Indigenous identity by means of recognition with a ‘common seal’ from the relevant Indigenous group
  • Meet Australian Taxation Office (ATO) requirements ensuring the funds provided are tax exempt by:
    • The individual must be a full-time student
    • The individual must be enrolled at a university in Western Australia
    • The individual must not be required to be an employee as a condition of their scholarship
    • The individual must not be contracted wholly or principally for their labour
    • The individual must not be required to provide personal services now or in the future
    • The scholarship must be principally for educational purposes
  • If a scholar does not meet the ATO requirements they are responsible for ensuring appropriate individual taxation advice is sought on their behalf
  • Demonstrate strong academic achievement and potential

Contact to find out more.

Cultural Heritage

We have long been advocates for Indigenous rights in Australia, and today are proud supporters of the Uluru Statement from the Heart and have agreements in place across all our operations to ensure Traditional Owners have a say in how the benefits of mining are used in their community.

In the Pilbara, our cultural heritage programme meets our high standards for identification, assessment and management of Indigenous heritage sites. As part of the programme, our heritage team works closely with Traditional Owners to effectively manage activities around cultural values. We believe the participation of Indigenous Australians in managing their own cultural heritage is important and essential to ensuring our activities are conducted in a culturally appropriate manner.

Pilbara supplies

Sourcing Locally

We are working with more than 140 Indigenous businesses in the Pilbara to help build capacity and become Rio Tinto suppliers. In 2018, we spent $120 million with more than 45 Pilbara Indigenous businesses.
Cultural heritage in the Pilbara

Preserving Cultural Heritage in the Pilbara

Our heritage team is one of the largest and most experienced of its kind in the resources industry. Our experts include qualified archaeologists, anthropologists, specialists in cultural heritage management, geographical information systems, information management and community liaison officers, all of whom collectively facilitate the management of Indigenous cultural heritage across our iron ore tenements, solar salt operations and mining leases in Western Australia.

Our comprehensive Cultural Heritage Management System ensures appropriate protection and management of Indigenous heritage through engagement with Traditional Owners and their Native Title representative bodies. Our approvals coordination system regulates ground disturbance activities to ensure that significant Indigenous and environmental sites are not disturbed without authorisation.

Rock art, the Pilbara, Western Australia

Our Heritage Programme

As part of our heritage programme, we partner with relevant Indigenous representative organisations, professional bodies and academic institutions to conduct research and analysis of significant sites. This includes archaeological excavations in rock shelters, some of which have revealed evidence of 45,000 years of occupation by Indigenous people, and in recording the incredible rock art displaying human social and economic values over many tens of thousands of years.

Read about our work with Indigenous Australians >

We are also proud to partner with the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation and the University of Western Australia in ongoing investigations and management, including a major research programme, Murujuga: Dynamics of the Dreaming, and in an annual field school on the Burrup Peninsula near Dampier. This gives students and Indigenous rangers an opportunity to work together in the identification, recording and management of the significant rock art in this area. Learn more about the programme.

The cultural heritage surveys identified above were associated with our exploration and evaluation drilling programmes, extensions to existing mines and future mine development studies. The two recorded incidents related to the use of existing infrastructure within the heritage site boundaries. These were investigated and reported to the relevant Traditional Owner groups.

  • Walking the Land
    Walking the Land Together: Pilbara Conversations
    In 2018, we released a book, authored by Lisa Holland-McNair, called Walking the Land Together: Pilbara Conversations, which examines the impact our Dampier-based Aboriginal Training and Liaison Unit had on local communities.
  • The Colours of our Country art exhibition
    Colours of our Country
    More than an exhibition, Colours of our Country creates economic development opportunities, supports artists and provides an outlet for cultural expression.

Land Agreements

Rio Tinto was the first mining company to embrace Indigenous land rights in Australia, in 1997, and, in the Pilbara, we have engaged in agreement-making with Traditional Owner groups for more than two decades. This has led to "claim wide" or "country wide" agreements covering the traditional country of the Banjima, Eastern Guruma, Ngarlawangga, Ngarluma, Nyiyaparli, Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura, Robe River Kuruma, Yindjibarndi and Yinhawangka Traditional Owner groups.

Agreements recognise Native Title rights and the interests of Traditional Owner groups and also provide monetary and non-monetary intergenerational benefits. They also allow us to secure our ongoing operations and the expansion of our business.

Land Agreements: the Regional Framework Deed (RFD)

In 2011, following the execution of the Claim Wide Participation Agreements (CWPA), Traditional Owner groups were given the opportunity to opt into the Regional Framework Deed (RFD). As of 2018, all Traditional Owner groups that have signed CWPAs with Rio Tinto, have opted-in to the RFD. The purpose of the RFD is to promote the wellbeing of Pilbara Aboriginal People and provide a vehicle for the parties to work together to help address joint commitments aligned to the following seven regional standards:

  • Aboriginal Employment and Training
  • Aboriginal Business Development and Contracting
  • Cultural Heritage Management
  • Environmental Management
  • Life of Mine Planning
  • Land Access
  • Cultural Awareness Training

This vehicle, known as the Regional Implementation Committee (RIC), provides Rio Tinto and Traditional Owner groups with a regional forum to address particular commitments within the regional standards, along with addressing regional economic participation and development.