Finding better ways for more than 150 years

Our origins lie in our namesake, the Rio Tinto or red river mines in southern Spain. The ancient mines of Rio Tinto date back to 3000BC when Tartessians, Iberians, Phoenicians, Carthaginians and Romans mined.

Since our formation in 1873, it’s been in our DNA to find better ways as we strive for continuous improvement by facing challenges, finding solutions, celebrating our successes, and learning from our failures. Today, our strength and scale reflect the foresight and courage shown by generations past, and the commitment of our current employees, who continue to forge important partnerships with companies, communities and countries.

As we look to the future, we are finding better ways to provide the materials the world needs.

1870

1873

The Rio Tinto Company is formed 

In 1869, the Spanish government decide to sell the Rio Tinto mines. They advertised the sale in 1871 in papers across Europe and received four offers. A group of businessmen headed by Hugh Matheson, the Scottish head of a London bank, made the best offer, and on 29 March 1873, the Rio Tinto Company was registered in London with Matheson as Chairman. 

Rio Tinto Company founder and inaugural Chairman, Hugh Matheson. ES.21049.AHMFRT_A-1_222b

1880

1883

Supplying 10% of world copper 

Initially, our shareholders had high hopes of quick returns, but it took 10 years of regular, additional funding before investors started to see promising returns. And by the turn of the century, after vigorous expansion, our Spanish mines were producing 10% of the world's copper.   

The Rio Tinto mine and workers in the last 1800s. ES.21049.AHMFRT _A-1_100b

1920

1929

The great Copper Belt expansion

Nearly 30 years after it’s first mentioned, talk of the great copper belt of Zambia (previously known as Northern Rhodesia) was back on the table. Our first venture into Zambia was indirectly through Minerals Separation Ltd and we went on to eventually form the Rhokana Corporation Ltd. 

1930

1939–1945

Despite pressure from our shareholders to sell our African copper assets, Geddes held firm, ultimately saving the Company as the world struggled through World War II. 

Rio Tinto Chairman Sir Auckland Geddes

1940

1948–1953

The right people at the right time

With war behind us, the next big challenge was to decide if we were a mining house, investment holding company, or both. Ultimately, this came down to appointing the right people at the right time. Sir Mark Turner, Gerald Coke, Sir Val Duncan and Franks Byers became directors and Roy Wright was appointed overseas' manager. Come 1952, our exploration team expands into South Africa and Canada and the following year Australia.

Early exploration in Australia

1950

1954

Sale of the Rio Tinto mines 

As the Spanish economy recovered in the early-1950s, interest grew in returning the Rio Tinto mines to Spanish ownership. On 12 August 1954, our shareholders met in London to authorise the sale of the Rio Tinto mines to the Spanish Government for £7.66 million with effect on 1 January 1955. We retained a one third shareholding in the new company, Compañia Española de Minas de Río Tinto, S.A.  

1954–1958

Welcome to the Atomic Age

In 1954, we started to take a closer look at uranium opportunities in Canada and Australia. 

In 1956, we signed a contract with the Canadian Government for a CA$275 million shipment of uranium oxide – the largest single contract ever awarded to one company at the time.  

Monitoring ore at Australia’s Mary Kathleen mine, 1972
1955

The red cliffs of Australia 

The vibrant red cliffs on the west coast of Cape York Peninsula in Queensland, Australia were first reported by Commander Matthew Flinders in 1802. But it wasn’t until July 1955 that Consolidated Zinc geologist Harry Evans identified potential commercial bauxite in the Weipa area.

Early Weipa operations

1960

1962

RTZ and CRA 

The Rio Tinto Company Limited and Consolidated Zinc Corporation Limited merged to form the Rio Tinto-Zinc Corporation (RTZ), and Consolidated Zinc Pty Ltd and the Rio Tinto Mining Company of Australia Ltd merged to form ConZinc RioTinto of Australia Ltd (CRA). 

CRA exploration in Western Australia, 1984
1962

Preparing for downstream aluminium 

Understanding the need for downstream processing, Consolidated Zinc had purchased the Bell Bay aluminium smelter from the Australian Government and the State of Tasmania in 1960. By the time of the merger, Comalco (of which we owned a 45% share) tripled the aluminium ingot capacity of the smelter. 

Bell Bay aluminium ingot casting, 1955
1962

The Australianisation of RTZ

Foreign ownership was a big issue in Australia with a strong push towards "Australianisation" of Australian assets. By this stage Hamersley Iron had been formed in association with Kaiser Steel United States, and Comalco Industries progressed towards the establishment of a major new aluminium industry in Australia and New Zealand. 

1964–1965

Our Japanese partnership

CRA Chairman Sir Maurice Mawby took advantage of the Commonwealth Government’s easing of iron ore export restrictions in 1960 by ramping up in the Pilbara. By December 1964, Hamersley Iron and the Japanese steel mills signed a letter of intent to supply 65.5 million dry long tonnes of iron ore, worth £270 million. In 1965, we signed a sales contract with Japanese steel mills for 65.5 million tonnes over the next 16 years. 

Japanese partners at the Hamersley Iron No. 1 contract signing Perth, 1965
1963

World’s greatest copper enterprise

RTZ had flourished into a well and truly global company, with the bulk of operations in Australia, North America and the United Kingdom, but also around 15% in Africa. An important prospect at the time was the Palabora copper project in South Africa (39% ownership) which started operating in the north-eastern Transvaal, one of the world's greatest copper mining and metallurgical enterprises. 

1964–1970

High hopes for Papua New Guinea

We turned our attention northwards to the Territory of New Guinea in the British Solomon Islands. Using helicopters and the latest geochemical techniques, by 1967, the exploration teams discovered a very large, low-grade copper deposit at Bougainville. 

1965–1966

Expansion in the Pilbara

In just 18 months, we built the towns of Tom Price and Dampier, developed the Tom Price mine, constructed miles of railway from inland Pilbara to the coast and built a new port.

The Houn Maru prepares to sail to Japan with the first contracted shipment of Hamersley Iron’s iron ore
1965

A growing global investment house

Back in London, Sir Val Duncan was overseeing RTZ's “conglomerate age” – a trend where large corporations bought companies, often in unrelated fields. Seeing ourselves as a global investment house our growth strategy included developing resources that required too much capital for most; identifying and acquiring underperforming assets; taking on projects that presented too much of a technical challenge and were too complex for everyone else; and acquiring companies that solved difficult technical challenges. 

1968

Our coal journey

Our coal journey in Australia continued with the acquisition of the Blair Athol mine in Central Queensland in 1968. By the mid-1970s, we took a stake in Coal & Allied, the largest coal producer in New South Wales, and by 1993 we had a majority stake. 

Coal loaded on rail wagons at the Blair Athol mine, Queensland, Australia
1968

US stalwart Borax joins Rio Tinto

As part of our conglomerate-age takeovers, we acquired Borax Holdings Ltd, adding this major North American resource to our portfolio and gaining the world's leading producer of borates and boron chemicals.

The famous U.S. Borax 20 mule team in action

1970

1970

The Pillar purchase

We continued to focus on becoming a global investment house and acquired Pillar, adding to our growing aluminium assets. Like Borax Holdings Ltd, RTZ Pillar was wholly owned by RTZ, so we were responsible for managing and developing its worldwide assets, including the new smelter at Anglesey in Wales (co-developed as a joint venture with Kaiser) and a wide range of aluminium-related engineering, fabrication, manufacturing and other services in the United Kingdom, Australasia, Canada and Europe.

1970–1979

Diamonds glittering in the anthills

In the 1970s, geologists started searching for diamonds in Western Australia’s Kimberley region, focusing on finding a diamond bearing pipe rather than an alluvial field. After nearly a decade, we found diamonds when panning at Smoke Creek in 1979. Following the Smoke Creek bed on foot to the top of the Argyle pipe, our geologists had a “Eureka” moment upon seeing diamonds glinting in the anthills – one of the richest diamond deposits the world had ever seen.

Geologist Frank Hughes at Smoke Creek
1971–1973

Reaching agreement with local communities

In the Territories of New Guinea, Bougainville Copper, majority-owned at the time by CRA, was working on the Bougainville copper mine. An important part of approvals around this mining operation was negotiating a new way of working with local communities.

Queen Elizabeth II visits Panguna, Territories of New Guinea, 1974
1972

Comalco builds on bauxite and salt

By 1972, Comalco was a booming aluminium business. We were mining bauxite at scale at Weipa, owned the Bell Bay alumina refinery and aluminium smelter, and had aluminium semi-fabrication and marketing facilities in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane, Perth and New Zealand.

Dry salt being stacked ready for loading on a ship at Mistaken Island in Dampier, 1972
1972

Joining the environment debate

The first United Nations' environment conference took place in Stockholm in 1972, centred on issues like chemical pollution, atomic bomb testing and whaling. Having one of the world's largest uranium deposits and mines in both Australia and Canada, we joined the debate, setting up our first Environmental Affairs Group. By 1974, we were actively reporting to shareholders about environmental issues. 

1973

Remembering Sir Maurice Mawby

After 11 years at the helm of CRA, Sir Maurice Mawby retired and was well remembered for his hands-on approach to his job and leadership. 

Broken Hill after regeneration, 1961
1973

First shipments to Korea and China

Our first ever shipment to China was delivered to the Shanghai No.1 steel mill, now part of China Baowu, the world’s top steel producer. The first shipment of Pilbara iron ore was also sent to Korea that year.

A delegation from the People’s Republic of China, 1974
1976–1978

Rössing Foundation leading the way

Ten years after developing the Rössing uranium mine in Namibia – the world's largest mine of its kind at the time – we began production. Within two years, we established the Rössing Foundation, which continues to work closely with communities in the Erongo, Oshana and Omaheke regions.

1977

Our first renewable resource

We purchased the remaining 50% of Dampier Salt in Western Australia. 

Crystallizers at Dampier Salt, Australia

1980

1982

A brief stint in cement 

In our last “conglomerate age” acquisition, RTZ Chairman Sir Anthony Tuke launched a hostile takeover of United Kingdom-based company Thos W Ward which owned the outstanding shares in Tunnel Cement. Soon after, we decided we needed to focus on mining and mining related endeavours - a decision that really set the foundations of the company we know today led by Sir Derek Birkin and Sir Alistair Frame.  

1982

Working with Traditional Owners

Throughout the 1980s, Australian Indigenous peoples were excluded from decision making processes in relation to developments on their land. This also meant that Traditional Owners were not consulted or engaged about protecting or managing cultural heritage, and Indigenous peoples’ rights and interests were not fully guaranteed or recognised by Australian law. In 1982, despite this context of societal and legal prejudice, we had begun to recognise the importance of working meaningfully and respectfully with local communities and Indigenous peoples. 

Land and Sea Management Program officers at the Amrun bauxite project, Queensland, Australia
1982

Helping communities recycle aluminium cans

Australia’s second largest aluminium smelter, the Boyne Smelters Limited (BSL) joint venture, opened in Queensland in 1982.  BSL recycled around 156 million aluminium cans every year and became Australia’s largest aluminium can recycling facility. 

Creative ways to recycle aluminium cans in the early 1980s
1983

Setting up China

We opened an office in Beijing, marking an important step in our burgeoning relationship with China. 

The inaugural team at the Rio Tinto Beijing office, China, 1983
1984

Addressing environmental expectations 

By the mid-1980s, environmental concerns and expectations were increasing, with the Rio de Janeiro United Nations Earth Summit on the radar. Finally going ahead in 1992, it would see 179 countries come together to focus on the impact of human socio-economic activities on the environment.  

Environmental rehabilitation started to gain importance in the 1970s and 1980s as nurseries were established to grow native plants
1985

World’s largest copper mine

We expanded our copper operations with a joint venture with BHP for the Minera Escondida mine in Chile – the world’s largest copper mine – and the Neves Corvo copper and zinc mine in Portugal. 

One of the massive sulphide ore leaching pads under construction at Escondida in 2005. These biological leaching pads use bacteria to convert sulphide ore into copper.
1985–1989

Coloured diamonds take on the world

Taking just six years from discovery to completion, the Argyle Diamond Mine was fully up and running by 1985. Argyle was a fly in, fly out operation – this was common in oil and gas at the time but may have been a first for mining.

Uncut diamonds, Rio Tinto India
1987

Silver jubilee name changes

During its silver jubilee year, shareholders agreed to change the name from The Rio Tinto-Zinc Corporation PLC to The RTZ Corporation PLC. 

1987

An evolutionary partnership for the future

Hamersley Iron and Sinosteel signed the Mount Channar iron ore project deal, heralding an important milestone in the evolution of China and Australia’s economic relationship. In 2010, an extension of the joint venture was signed for a further five years from 2012 to 2017.

General secretary of the Chinese Communist Party Mr Hu Yaobang with Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke at Channar iron ore project, Western Australia, 1985
1988

High hopes for new company

Combining our lead, zinc and silver interest with North Broken Hill Peko, we formed the new company Pasminco Ltd in 1988.  In 2000, we acquired North Broken Hill Peko (North Ltd), but the following year, a combination of low commodity prices and high debt saw the company placed in voluntary administration.

1988–1990

Tragedy in Papua New Guinea

After operating for more than 15 years, serious problems started arising in Bougainville. A series of disturbances at the end of 1989 caused damage to property and lost workdays, and escalated the following year, ending in civil war, tragedy and the closure of the Panguna mine. 

1989

Securing Kennecott with BP Minerals buy out

By 1989, we were ready to focus solely on mining. We sold all oil and gas assets and set our sights on BP Minerals. For US$3.7 billion, we acquired Kennecott's Bingham Canyon copper and gold mine in Utah, United States, making us one of the world's largest gold producers outside of South Africa.

Haul trucks at the Kennecott copper mine, Utah, United States

1990

1992

Selling some of our first assets

We sold our interest in Rio Algom Ltd, taking us out of the Canada and Australia uranium business. Uranium would soon be back on the books in Australia in 2000 when we acquired Energy Resources of Australia as part of the North Ltd acquisition. By 2007, we were the world's second largest uranium miner until the sale of the Rössing uranium mine in Namibia in 2019 to CNNC. 

1992

Developing the next generation

Our Bundoora Technical Development Centre in Melbourne opened in 1992. It plays a vital role in developing the next generation of technical practitioners for our business, with many going on to forge successful careers within our operations and product groups around the world. 

Research at the Bundoora Technical Development Centre in Victoria, Australia
1993

The expanding business of coal

After the world emerged from the late-1980s recession, coal became an important commodity. We acquired Nerco and the Cordero Mining Company in the United States and set up Rio Tinto Energy America. 

1993–1994

Goodbye to Pillar

As part of our continuing strategy from 1989 to focus solely on mining-related activities, we sold RTZ Pillar for £900 million. As an aluminium manufacturer, Pillar helped us rapidly enter the aluminium market and engage in the end-to-end process at the perfect time; when our Anglesey Smelter in Wales had just been built and Comalco started to produce in Australia. 

1993–1996

Show-stopping diamond creations

In a ground-breaking strategic partnership with the Indian diamond industry and the world’s largest diamond jewellery market in the United States, the Indo Argyle Diamond Council was formed in 1993 and became a key part of Argyle’s champagne and cognac market development activities.

Pink, red and blue diamonds from the iconic Pink Diamond Tender
1995

Rio Tinto is born again

In one of the most significant events in our history, The RTZ Corporation PLC (RTZ) merged with ConZinc RioTinto of Australia Ltd (CRA) in 1995 to form RTZ-CRA in a dual listed company structure in Australia and the United Kingdom. 

CRA officially becomes Rio Tinto
1995

A line in the sand for Indigenous rights

The mid-1990s marked a distinct change in direction around our approach to community relations, specifically the desire for active social engagement with local communities. In 1995, our chief executive Leon Davis decided to publicly commit to working with Native Title legislation in Australia and engaging with Traditional Owners because it was 'the right thing to do'.

Amrun Land and Sea Management Program employees carrying out turtle surveys at Amrun Operations, Weipa, Australia
1996

Walking the land together

We released our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Policy and launched the Rio Tinto Aboriginal Foundation. The following year, we signed the Yandicoogina Land Use Agreement in Western Australia, a precursor to later Indigenous land use agreements, but our first land use agreement with Traditional Owners after the Native Title Act was introduced. 

1997–1998

First steps in the Republic of Guinea

We were granted exploration permits and established Simfer S.A. – the start of our journey searching for iron ore in the Republic of Guinea. 

1998

Remembering Lassing 

On 17 July 1998, a disaster began to unfold at our talc mine beneath the village of Lassing in central Austria. Deep underground, the mine had started to collapse – and as the tunnels filled with water, mud and debris, 24-year-old miner Georg Hainzl was trapped 60 metres below the surface.

1998

Leaders in ilmenite

As part of our acquisition of BP Minerals in 1989, we acquired the world's largest ilmenite deposit in Lac Tio, Quebec, Canada as well as the huge Metallurgical Complex at Sorel-Tracy.

Aerial view of the Metallurgical Complex in Sorel-Tracy, Quebec , Canada
1999–2001

Looking to a sustainable future

In 1999, we helped establish the Global Mining Initiative, a major program of consultation on sustainable development, involving both the mining industry and external organisations. After taking a leadership position in the Global Mining Initiative, we stepped up in 2001 to chair the new industry body on sustainable development, the London-based International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM).

Kakadu Native Plants employees maintaining native saplings for the Ranger Mine rehabilitation areas, Northern Territory, Australia

2000

2000

North Ltd acquisition adds valuable assets

At the turn of the new century, we focused fully on tier one acquisitions, starting with North Ltd. The acquisition brought Cliffs Robe River Iron Associates assets in the Pilbara and significantly expanded our iron ore assets, including mines, rail and port capacity. Other assets included Northparkes and Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) in Australia, and the Iron Ore Company of Canada (IOC). 

Early days at Cliffs Robe River in the Pilbara, Western Australia
2001

Coming together in Queensland, Australia

We signed the Western Cape Communities Co-Existence Agreement, known more commonly as the WCCCA, between 11 Traditional Owner groups, four Shire Councils, Comalco, The Queensland State Government and the Cape York Land Council. 

2001

Diamonds near the Arctic

In 1994, diamonds were discovered about 200 kilometres south of the Arctic Circle, at the bottom of Lac de Gras in Canada's Northwest Territories. In 2001, we started construction at the Diavik Diamond Mine.

The Diavik Diamond Mine in Canada’s Northwest Territories
2002

Iron ore deal with China

In 2002, Hamersley Iron and Baosteel Group set up the Bao-HI joint venture to supply 10 million tonnes of iron ore per year over 20 years. It marked our continuing and vital partnership with China. 

2004

Historic mine gets second chance

Resolution Copper Mining assumed control of the Magma Mine site, located in Superior, Arizona in the United States, and saw potential to reuse the historic mine to develop a rich new copper deposit.  

The Resolution Copper Mine in the United States
2004

New negotiations in the Kimberley

Despite good intent, the Good Neighbour Agreement drawn up in 1980 between Argyle and local Traditional Owners proved inadequate over time. A new Participation Agreement was negotiated in 2004, providing wealth for future generations, supporting social development in the region and promoting increased economic participation through training, employment and business opportunities. The Traditional Owners were also given the final say on whether the proposed underground mine should go ahead. 

2004

Lithium in Serbia

Near the town of Loznica in Western Serbia, we discovered and identified the Jadar lithium and borates deposit.  

2005

Big boost for Madagascar

We approved a US$1 billion investment in 2005 to develop mining facilities and build a port at QIT Madagascar Minerals (QMM), established in Madagascar in 1986. 

QIT Madagascar Minerals employees at the Port d'Ehoala
2006

New partnership in Mongolia

We formed a strategic partnership with Ivanhoe Mines to construct and operate Oyu Tolgoi in Mongolia. The site’s copper deposit went on to become one of the world's largest copper mines. However, it was not without controversy, with civil groups protesting the development the following year.

Shaft #1 at Oyu Tolgoi, Khanbogd, Mongolia
2006–2007

Setting up in Singapore

We established Rio Tinto Procurement Singapore (2006) and Rio Tinto Marine (2007). Today, our Marine team uses its expertise, precision scheduling systems and global communication network to orchestrate and operate a fleet of more than 230 ships that transport millions of tonnes of product across multiple continents, making Rio Tinto one of the largest dry bulk shippers in the world. 

The vibrant Singapore skyline
2007

A World leader in aluminium

We acquired Alcan, making us a world leader in aluminium. Some of the Canadian assets we acquired included the Arvida smelter (1926) which produces molten aluminium; Isle Maligne powerhouse (CIM), our oldest hydroelectric power station which, since 1926 has played an essential role in managing the level of Lac Saint-Jean; and the Vaudreuil Alumina Refinery (1936), one of the last alumina refineries to operate without being located near a bauxite mine.  

Rollers spare parts for conveyors at unloading, wet bauxite grinding sector, Vaudreuil Works, Canada
2008

A future approach in iron ore

In 2008, we unveiled the Mine of the Future™ vision, which included autonomous haulage systems (AHS) trucks, autonomous drill systems (ADS) and Autohaul™, the automated train system (deployed in 2019).

Autohaul driverless trains, Pilbara, Western Australia
2008

Ship sails from Madagascar to Quebec

QIT Madagascar Minerals began operating in 2008, and a year later the first ship was loaded with Madagascar ore and docks at the Rio Tinto Iron and Titanium - Quebec Operations terminal, ready to be processed at our Metallurgical Complex in Quebec. 

Port d'Ehoala, Fort Dauphin, Madagascar
2008

Tragedy at Peru mine

Tragedy struck when a helicopter crashed at our La Granja copper project in Peru, killing 10 people. A further 8 deaths at businesses we manage took the total to a heart-breaking 18 lives lost in 2008. 

2008–2009

Boards reject Chinalco bid

By 2008 the world economy began to slide into the Global Financial Crisis. In February 2009, we announced a strategic partnership with leading Chinese diversified resource company Chinalco who had agreed to invest up to US$19.5 billion in cash and commitments. Come June, the Boards of both companies announced they would no longer pursue the transaction. 

2009–2010

BHP Billiton joint venture ends

In June 2009, Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton signed a non-binding agreement to establish a production joint venture encompassing the entirety of both companies’ Western Australian iron ore assets. Plans to progress the joint venture continued until October 2010 when a joint decision was made to end the proposal, primarily due to indications from global regulators that it would not be approved. 

2009

New port for Madagascar

We opened Madagascar's second biggest port, the Ehoala Port in Fort Dauphin, which acted as a catalyst for economic development as a well as a channel to export QMM's product. 

 QIT Madagascar Minerals employees at the Port d'Ehoala

2010

2010

Full steam ahead in Mongolia

We started managing the Oyu Tolgoi project in Mongolia, working in partnership to realise the Government’s vision – that the project “must be the most responsible, transparent and safe project and that the investors must respect the interests of the Mongolian people”. 

Employees at Oyu Tolgoi
2010

Key partnerships for the future

By the end of 2010, we were developing key strategic partnerships with research centres around the world.

2010–2012

Automation in the Pilbara

We opened our Iron Ore Operations Centre in Perth, Australia and by 2012, rolled out our automated haul trucks in partnership with Komatsu at our Yandicoogina mine in the Pilbara, Western Australia.  

Train controller at our Operations Centre Perth, Western Australia
2010–2012

Port expansion to meet high iron ore demand

We expanded our Dampier Port in 2010, increasing our Pilbara iron ore annual capacity to 230 million tonnes annually. 

Dampier iron ore port, Western Australia
2010–2014

Coal and Aluminium impairments

In December 2010, we began a takeover of the Riversdale coal assets in Mozambique, seeing it as the world’s next major coal basin. Come January 2013, we announced US$3 billion worth of impairments relating to Rio Tinto Coal Mozambique after finding that the development of infrastructure to support the coal assets was more challenging than anticipated.

2011–2012

Moving forward in Guinea

Our subsidiary Simfer S.A. and the Government of Guinea signed a Settlement Agreement in April, securing our mining title in Guinea at the Simandou iron ore project. The following year, we formed a joint venture with Chinalco’s listed subsidiary Chalco to develop and operate the project. 

Simandou employees in Guinea
2011

Agreements matter in the Pilbara

To secure the future for both the Pilbara iron ore business and local Traditional Owners, we signed new Participation Agreements and introduced Regional Standards. As well as this, we released our first Australian Reconciliation Action Plan.

The Polly Farmer Foundation Follow the Dream program in Tom Price, Western Australia
2011

New Chinese joint venture

We officially registered the Rio Tinto and Chinalco joint venture for exploration in China, Chinalco Rio Tinto Exploration Co. Ltd (CRTX). 

2012

Renewable energy systems across the world

Discussions around renewable energy gained momentum as solar energy systems were installed across 30 of our sites across Australia, the United States and Africa.

One of the four Diavik Diamond Mine wind turbines
2012

Our metals shine at the London Olympics

We supplied the gold, silver and copper to produce the 4,700 London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games' medals. The metal was supplied from Kennecott Utah Copper in the United States and Oyu Tolgoi in Mongolia. 

Rio Tinto metals were used for the London 2012 Olympic medals
2012

Expanding our ownership in Richards Bay

We doubled our holding in the Richards Bay Minerals (RBM) South African mineral sands mining and processing operation, buying out BHP Billiton's 37% equity interest. The remaining 26% of RBM was owned by a consortium of local communities and businesses (24%) and RBM employees (2%), in line with South Africa's Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment legislation. In 2011 RBM, one of the world's lowest cost producers at the time produced 14% of global titanium dioxide feedstock sales and 18% of global zircon sales.  

RBM employees
2012

Alumina production doubles at Yarwun

Our Yarwun Alumina Refinery, opened in 2004, expanded in 2012, effectively doubling production to more than 3 million tonnes of alumina per year. 

Our Yarwun alumina refinery in Queensland, Australia
2013

Technology redefines the industry benchmark

Our Aluminium Technology Services (ATS) team in France developed AP60 aluminium smelting technology, which generates seven times less greenhouse gases than the industry average. Between 2013 and November 2021, the initial AP60 technology pots produce more than 465,000 tonnes of low-carbon aluminium. 

2013

Strong safety culture prevents tragedy

In April 2013, our Bingham Canyon copper mine in Utah, United States experienced the largest mine slide event in its 110-year history. Proactive monitoring, safety training and emergency preparedness mitigated the impacts of the slide and prevented it from becoming a much larger disaster. No one was injured and less than 10% of our equipment was damaged. 

The largest mine slide event in the history of the Bingham Canyon copper mine, US
2013

Australian coal in high demand

By the 2000s, our coal assets occupied central positions in coal fields in Queensland and New South Wales and our products – thermal coal, semi-soft coking coal and hard coking coal – were in high demand in international markets. At our peak of production in 2013, our six operating mines extracted 34 million tonnes of coal (Rio Tinto share) for export.

2013

Oyu Tolgoi’s first copper convoy

The first convoy of 16 trucks, carrying 576 tonnes of 'Oyu Tolgoi – Product of Mongolia' copper concentrate departed for the Gashuun-Sukhait border crossing and on to the first commercial shipments. The total size of the initial sale was approximately 5,800 tonnes of copper concentrate. 

Oyu Tolgoi copper concentrate being transported for shipment
2014

IOC signs important Indigenous Peoples agreements

In 2014, we signed two Agreements with the Innu Nation (Sheshatshiu and Natuashish) of Labrador and the NunatuKavut Community Council, also in Labrador. The Agreements provided access to training, education, employment, business opportunities and other development programs. The Iron Ore Company of Canada became part of our business when we acquired North Ltd in 2000 and has a proud history dating back to 1949.   

Agreements with the Innu Nation and the NunatuKavut Community Council
2014

Award for absolute carbon reduction

The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), a not-for-profit which runs the global disclosure system to manage environmental impacts, presented us a leadership award in 2014 for the largest absolute carbon reduction in the ASX 200. 

2014–2017

A vital safety step

A vital part of our safety journey was the critical risk management (CRM) fatality prevention program, which we trialled at the Kennecott Copper mine in 2014. The CRM programme provides a means to verify that critical controls are well-designed, understood, in place and working at the front line – where the risk exists. By 2017, CRM was rolled out across more than 60 of our sites and during its first year, we completed more than 1.4 million critical control verifications. 

Employee using Critical Risk Management application at Parker Point Port, Dampier
2015

New greenhouse gas commitments

We signed the Paris Pledge for Action on Climate Change and committed to extend our greenhouse gas emissions intensity target period to 2020, aiming for a 24% reduction from the 2008 baseline. The following year our shareholders pushed for more disclosure on our climate change approach.  

2015

Transformation at BC Works

Following a C$6 billion dollar modernisation concluding in 2015, we transformed BC Works Kitimat original smelter from its original 1954 structure into one of the most efficient, lowest-cost aluminium smelters in the world, powered exclusively by clean, renewable hydropower.   

Bamboo trees at Nahampoana Reserve in Fort Dauphin, Madagascar
2015

Testing casting recipes

Launched in 2015, Petits Lingots Saguenay (PLS) produced value-added product-remelt ingots for the North American automotive and transportation industry. At the heart of regional economic development and in partnership with small and medium enterprises in the Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean region, Dubuc was a niche product development centre, used as an industrial platform for testing recipes for other casting centres.

Employees check the temperature of molten aluminium going into the straight-line casting machine at Kitimat
2015–2016

100 million carats of diamonds at Diavik

We uncovered North America’s largest gem-quality rough diamond – the Diavik Foxfire – weighing in at 187.66 carats.

North America’s largest gem-quality rough diamond – the Diavik Foxfire – weighing in at 187.66 carats
2016

Panguna shares transferred

Almost 30 years after leaving the Panguna mine due to the tragic civil war, in 2016 we transferred our 53.83% majority shareholding in Bougainville Copper Limited to the Autonomous Bougainville Government and the Papua New Guinea Government for no consideration, enabling each to hold an equal share of 36.4% of Bougainville Copper Limited. 

2016

The first certified low-carbon aluminium

We collaborate with the brightest minds around the globe to tackle industry challenges – some of the largest we face in our 150-year history – and the most important for us to solve. As a result, in 2016 we launched the industry's first certified low-carbon aluminium, RenewAl, and by 2019, we had created Revolution-Al, a new alloy helping to reduce CO2 emissions from cars. 

Arvida Research and Development Centre, Canada
2017

Our employees pitch ideas

We created the Pioneering Pitch, a program that encourages employees to share new, creative ideas on how to strengthen and improve the business. They then pitch to a panel of peers, who may award up to $250,000 for each idea and expert support to implement the best. So far, over $35 million in potential value to our business has been identified, in addition to benefits from safety, health and social license. 

2018

On the search for world-class deposits

We formalised a contract with Minmetals in 2018 to establish a 50:50 joint venture to explore for world-class mineral deposits in China. This marked another important milestone in our long-term partnership with China. 

2018

Gladstone becomes innovation hub

The Rio Tinto Queensland Research and Development Centre (QRDC) relocated from Brisbane to the Yarwun Refinery in 2018. QRDC is our global centre for technology, research and development in the alumina refining process. It provides laboratory and technical support to Queensland Alumina Limited and Yarwun Alumina refineries, northern Australia bauxite mines, and to the Rio Tinto Commercial group supporting bauxite sales into China. 

Yarwun Alumina Refinery laboratory in Queensland, Australia
2018

First major miner to stop producing coal

After divesting Coal & Allied in 2017, we became the first major mining company to stop producing coal.

2018

Certified for life

In 2018, we became one of the Founders of the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative (ASI), and the only aluminium producer to have our product ASI-certified as responsible throughout its lifecycle. ASI certification is made possible with collaboration across the aluminium value chain, including Nespresso, Flora & Fauna International (FFI), World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the International Union on the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). 

2018

Celebrating a past legend

The Iron Ore Company of Canada finished the Wabush 3 expansion project in 2018, and production began in the new Moss pit, named after Dr AE Moss, a geologist who helped survey IOC deposits in the 1940s.  

Moss Pit, IOC's newest open pit located in Labrador City, Canada
2018

Future mineral monazite shipped from Madagascar

QMM completed the first shipment of sand containing monazite, a by-product of ilmenite mining. Monazite, a rare earth element, is used in renewable energy technologies like high-powered permanent magnets used in wind turbines and electric vehicles. 

Employees at the Mineral Separating Plant at Mandena site, Madacasgar
2018

Remote control in Canada

Remote Operations began at The Iron Ore Company of Canada in 2018, allowing control room operators to co-locate; improving control and optimisation functions for fixed plants; increasing value chain situational awareness; and ensuring quicker response capability. 

Loaded rail cars at IOC Operations in Labrador City, Canada
2018–2019

Disrupting and changing for the better

We formed ELYSIS in 2018, an unprecedented partnership between us and Alcoa, which delivers a disruptive technology for the aluminium smelting industry.

Elysis aluminium
2019

New targets for zero emissions

We continued to ramp up our focus on decarbonisation by setting an ambition to reach net zero emissions by 2050 along with new targets – 15% reduction in absolute emissions and 30% reduction in emissions intensity by 2030, and carbon neutral growth.

2019

Taking the next step on our safety maturity journey

We introduced our Safety Maturity Model (SMM) to expand on our successful critical risk management (CRM) programme and strengthen our safety culture.

Critical Risk Management signs in the Oyu Tolgoi underground copper mine in Mongolia
2019

First Nations partnership for safety

At our Kemano hydro facility, in partnership with First Nations groups’ Cheslatta Carrier Nation and Haisla Nation, we started work in 2019 on a backup tunnel to the existing single 16km tunnel.

2019

Uluru Statement from the Heart

We endorsed the Uluru Statement from the Heart. 

2019

Student opportunities in Mongolia

We signed a partnership agreement with the National University of Mongolia to sponsor the Startup Lab Program, which sought to foster entrepreneurship among students.  

Signing of the MOU
2019–2022

Safety changes see fatality-free years

We were heartened in 2019 to achieve a fatality-free year. Despite all the challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, we also achieved consecutive years of zero fatalities in 2020, 2021 and 2022. 

A vacation student working with her mentor at the Brisbane office practicing covid safety
2019–2020

Innu agreements look to the future

In Canada, both the Iron Ore Company of Canada (IOC) and Rio Tinto Iron and Titanium – Quebec Operations signed agreements with Innu communities in 2019.

The Uauitshitun - Ekuanitshit people and Rio Tinto Fer et Titane sign an historic partnership agreement
2019–2020

Partnerships to address steel carbon footprint

Conscious of the part we play in creating a sustainable future for all, we are decarbonising our business and investing in technologies to help our customers reach their own climate goals. 

2020

2020

Supporting our teams and communities through COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic struck in 2020, but we were privileged to be able to continue operating, putting many measures in place to protect our employees, contractors and the communities where we work and live.

 IOC employees during COVID-19
2020

Destruction of Juukan Gorge rock shelters in Western Australia

In allowing the destruction of the Juukan Gorge rock shelters in 2020, we fall far short of our values as a company and breached the trust placed in us by the Traditional Owners of the lands on which we operate.

2020

End of an era at Argyle

In November 2020, we ceased mining at our Argyle diamond mine in the remote East Kimberley Region of Western Australia. During 37 years of operation, it produced more than 865 million carats of rare, natural-coloured diamonds, including coveted pink and red diamonds. Closure activities then started in collaboration with Traditional Owners. 

End of an era at the Argyle Diamond Mine – Underground Manager Brendan supervises last tonne of ore after 37 years of operation
2020–2021

Fast tracking Indigenous employees

In 2020, we made a A$50 million commitment to fast-track Indigenous Australians into professional and leadership roles to ensure we have a stronger representation of diverse voices across all of our businesses in Australia. Having true diversity of perspectives will rechart our company moving forward. The investment to attract, retain and grow has enabled us to increase the number of Australian Indigenous leaders in our business through internal promotion and recruitment. During 2021, 126 Indigenous employees earned promotions across Australia. 

An employee at our Gove bauxite mine in Queensland, Australia
2020–2023

Human rights in Bougainville

In September 2020, the Human Rights Law Centre filed a complaint against Rio Tinto on behalf of 156 Bougainville residents with the Australian National Contact Point (AusNCP) regarding the Panguna site.

2021

Accelerating our decarbonisation targets 

We committed to net zero by 2050 and accelerating our decarbonisation targets to 15% by 2025 and 50% by 2030. In addition to these targets, in 2021 we announced our new strategy, which has decarbonisation at its heart. To help achieve this, a new Rio Tinto Energy Development team was formed, which focuses on large-scale, renewable-energy solutions for our business, including installing 1GW of new renewables in the Pilbara.

2021

New scandium plant in Canada

We opened a new commercial scale demonstration plant in 2021, to produce high-quality scandium oxide at the Rio Tinto Iron and Titanium – Quebec Operations Metallurgical Complex in Sorel-Tracy. Scandium is an essential material in technologies such as EV batteries and solid-oxide fuel cells. The plant uses a process developed by Rio Tinto Iron and Titanium to extract high purity scandium oxide from the waste streams of titanium dioxide production, without the need for any additional mining. 

2021

Help in Mongolia during COVID-19

As COVID-19 continued to disrupt lives and livelihoods around the world in 2021, we adapted to the huge new range of rules, regulations and expectations at our operations across the globe. In Mongolia, we launched a low interest loan scheme to help struggling businesses.

The Mongolia team helping local communities through the covid crisis
2021

Diavik diamonds shine bright

We became the 100% owner of the Diavik Diamond Mine. Since opening in 2003, it now comprises four diamond-bearing pipes that we mine using a combination of open pit and underground mining. Our diamonds from Diavik are stunning white gems, produced to the highest possible standards of safety and integrity. 

Diavik Diamond mine rough diamonds
2021

Capturing carbon in Iceland

We partnered with Carbfix to implement a technology for capturing carbon and permanently storing it underground at the ISAL aluminium smelter in Iceland. Working together, we aim to advance carbon capture solutions that are already being tested in production cells at ISAL and use the Carbfix technology to further decarbonise the plant. 

Employees at ISAL, Iceland
2021

Renewable energy to power Madagascar plant 

In December 2021, we started to build the renewable energy plant that will power our QMM operations, with our partner CrossBoundary Energy. The plant will consist of over 15,000 solar panels and four wind turbines.

QMM solar panels in Madagascar
2021

Japanese emission reduction solutions

We partnered with Komatsu to explore ways to fast-track the development and implementation of zero-emission mining haulage solutions, including haul trucks. 

2021

STARTing with responsible aluminium

We set a new standard in transparency and traceability for the aluminium industry when we launched START, a “nutrition label” for responsible aluminium. START helps customers meet the demand from consumers for transparency on where and how the products they purchase are made.  

2021

Everyday Respect under the spotlight

In March 2021, we commissioned an independent review of our workplace culture to better understand, prevent and respond to harmful behaviours across our global operations. Former Australian Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick conducted the review, and we reported the findings and recommendations in February 2022. 

Promoting diversity and inclusion in the Pilbara, Australia
2021

A set of simple values

With new leadership in place, in 2021 we set four clear objectives: being the best operator; achieving impeccable environmental, social and governance credentials; excelling in development; and strengthening our social licence. 

2021

Millions of trees in Mongolia

We signed a US$400 million commitment in 2021 with the President of Mongolia to contribute 100 million trees to the 1 billion tree program within 10 years. Since signing, the official plan now includes trees and foundational infrastructure, to ensure they survive and thrive.

2021

New Battery Materials business

To help us meet the growing global need for renewable power sources, electric vehicles, and home energy storage, we launched a new Battery Materials business. This will see us add essential minerals like lithium, nickel, scandium and tellurium to our product portfolio, as well as other critical minerals that are part of the battery materials value chain. 

2022

Our most advanced mine opened in the Pilbara

We opened our most technologically advanced mine, the Gudai-Darri iron ore mine on Banjima country in the Pilbara. To optimise mine safety and drive productivity, Gudai-Darri features an unprecedented deployment of industry-leading technology. This includes the use of robotics for the ore sampling laboratory as well as for distribution of parts in the new workshop.  

Gudai-Darri fines stacker working as the sun sets over Banjima country in the Pilbara, WA
2022

Speciality borates products used worldwide

Borax Francais celebrated its 120th year of operation. Each year, Borax Français produces around 8,000 tonnes of speciality borates products for the agricultural, pharmaceutical, nuclear energy and industrial manufacturing sectors in Europe and the United States. 

2022

A first for recycled aluminium

A new aluminium recycling facility at our Arvida Plant in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, Quebec, expanded our offering of low-carbon aluminium solutions for customers in the automotive, packaging and construction markets. The facility will make us the first primary aluminium producer in North America to incorporate recycled post-consumer aluminium into aluminium alloys.  

Safety checks are essential at all our operations, including Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, Canada
2022

Infrastructure progressing at Simandou iron ore project

Together with the Government of the Republic of Guinea and Winning Consortium Simandou (WCS), Rio Tinto Simfer incorporated the La Compagnie du TransGuinéen (The TransGuinean Company) to further progress plans to codevelop the rail and port components for the Simandou iron ore project.

Aerial photo of Canga East Camp with Pic de Fon in background Simandou, Guinea
2022

Low carbon mine in Argentina

We acquired the Rincon lithium project in 2022, a large undeveloped lithium brine project located in the heart of the lithium triangle in Argentina. This long life, scalable project has the potential to have one of the lowest carbon footprints in the industry. 

The Rincon lithium project in Argentina
2022

Partnership in China

In March, we establish the China Technology and Innovation Centre (CTIC) in Beijing to connect leading Chinese research and development with our internal expertise to develop technological solutions to operational and business challenges. 

2022

Securing supply chains for electric vehicles

We formed strategic partnerships in 2022 with global car manufacturers Ford Motor Group and Volvo Group to supply responsibly sourced low-carbon materials, like lithium from our Rincon lithium project in Argentina. We will also explore opportunities to develop more sustainable and secure supply chains for electric vehicles. These multi-materials partnerships also include low carbon aluminium, copper and metallics. 

2022

Turning slime into solar panels

Our Kennecott copper operation in Utah, United States started to produce tellurium by recycling copper tailings streams. We are one of only two United States’ producers of the critical mineral, which is used in advanced thin-film photovoltaic solar panels. 

Environmental monitoring at Kennecott copper mine, US
2022

Leading research in Canada

We started to produce spodumene concentrate, a mineral used in the production of lithium for batteries, at a demonstration plant at our Rio Tinto Iron and Titanium Metallurgical Complex in Sorel-Tracy, Canada. Our Critical Minerals and Technology Centre, founded in 1967, is part of RTIT, and conducts research on process improvement and develops new products.  

2022

New battery partnership with Nano One

We announced a US$10 million strategic equity investment in Nano One, a Vancouver-based technology company with a patented industrial process to produce low-cost, high-performance cathode used in lithium-ion batteries. This partnership contemplates using our battery metal products, including iron powders from Rio Tinto Iron and Titanium – Quebec Operations and lithium, as feedstock for the production of Nano One’s cathode materials. 

2022

Hydrogen plant partnership explores possibilities

We announced a partnership with the Sumitomo Corporation in 2022 to study the construction of a hydrogen pilot plant at our Yarwun alumina refinery in Gladstone, Queensland, so we can explore the potential use of hydrogen at the refinery. 

The Yarwun alumina refinery at night-time
2022

Support for Voice to Parliament for Indigenous Australians 

We support strengthening safeguards for cultural heritage at both State and Commonwealth legislative levels. We have long supported constitutional recognition for Indigenous Australians, having backed the “Recognise” campaign, through to the Uluru Statement from the Heart, to where we stand today, with the growing momentum behind an Indigenous Voice to Parliament. We welcome a referendum to include recognition in the Constitution and will be actively engaging with our employees to promote understanding of the issue. 

2022

Renewable energy plant in South Africa

We signed an agreement with international energy company Voltalia and local Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) partners to supply Richards Bay Minerals (RBM) in KwaZuluNatal, South Africa with renewable solar power. Under the agreement, Voltalia will begin construction of the renewable energy project in 2023. The renewable power supply is expected to cut RBM’s annual greenhouse gas emissions by at least 10%, or 237kt CO2e per year. 

2022

Western Range

Rio Tinto and China Baowu Steel Group Co. Ltd agree to enter a $2 billion joint venture to develop the Western Range iron ore project in the Pilbara, Western Australia.