Copper & Diamonds in-depth

Copper & Diamonds in-depth

About copper

Products and uses

From the copper pipes of the Egyptian Pharaohs to today’s energy-efficient technology solutions – wherever you look, you are sure to find copper, or a metal produced as a by-product of the copper refining process. In fact, the world uses more than 19 million tonnes of copper every year. As the world’s leading economies continue to urbanise and industrialise, refined copper demand is expected to increase to more than 25 million tonnes by 2020. Around 19 million tonnes of that will be met by mined copper with the remainder being supplied from scrap.

Located in many of the world’s most remote and toughest environments, high-grade copper ore has been, for centuries, one of the world’s most in-demand commodities. Malleable, durable, resistant to corrosion, hygienic and an excellent conductor of heat and electricity, copper is one of our most useful and versatile metals.

Today, copper plays an essential role in computers, smartphones, electronics, appliances and construction. But it is also a metal at the forefront of green innovation. Hybrid and electric cars rely on it, as do renewable energy sources such as solar power, wind farms, and thermal and hydro-electricity. From on-demand water heaters to solar panels and smart wiring, copper will be an integral part of the green homes of tomorrow, helping us drive forward into a more energy-efficient future.

Our operations and projects

We have four world-class operating assets in the US, Mongolia, Chile and Indonesia, and two important growth projects - the Oyu Tolgoi underground project in Mongolia and Resolution Copper in the US.

At each of our copper operations, we are dedicated to using leading-edge technologies that drive forward the safest and most efficient and productive methods of extracting, processing and refining copper.

About diamonds

Products and uses

Rio Tinto produces the full spectrum of diamonds in terms of qualities, sizes and colours.

Our Diavik mine, for example, produces a high proportion of large, white, gem-quality diamonds, traditionally associated with engagement rings, luxury jewellery and collector pieces. Our Argyle mine, by contrast, produces predominantly small, coloured stones of diverse quality – generally destined for the more affordable fashion jewellery market – as well as the rare and highly prized pink diamonds sought after by high-end collectors, designers and diamond connoisseurs.

Our operations and projects

Rio Tinto operates a fully integrated global diamond exploration, mining and sales and marketing business, with a strong and trusted profile in both established and developing markets. Rio Tinto’s diamonds business comprises some 2,000 people around the world.

We have a controlling interest in two underground diamond mines: the Argyle mine (100% ownership) in Western Australia, operating since 1983 and the Diavik mine (60% ownership) in Canada’s Northwest Territories, operating since 2003.

We operate our two underground mines in vastly different geographies and conditions, from the icy, subarctic tundra in the north to the contrastingly hot and dry conditions of the southern hemisphere. While united by Rio Tinto’s operating standards and values, this means that each of our mines has their own distinct character and footprint, and their own distinct operating challenges.

Rio Tinto has been at the vanguard of reform in the jewellery industry to build better practices in governance, environmental and social performance. In addition to our own programmes around the origins of our diamonds, we are a founding member of the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC) which operates as a not for profit organisation and draws members from all sections of the diamond and gold supply chain.

Our business model is based on strategic partnerships and we work with all aspects of the supply chain, from mine to market, to develop markets for our products. Like other Rio Tinto companies, we are strongly committed to improving the long-term future for the diverse communities in which our mines operate.