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Innovation

Finding better ways to do things is in our DNA

$7.5 billion

Expected decarbonisation investment by 2030

$400 million

Annual R&D investment

500+

Dedicated R&D experts

For over 150 years, we’ve been finding better ways to provide the materials the world needs.

We were at the forefront of automation – trucks, trains and drills – and remote operations in our industry. We’ve found better, lower carbon ways of producing materials like aluminium and scandium. And we’ve introduced the world’s first sustainability label for aluminium using blockchain technology.

The need for innovation is greater than ever. The energy transition and continued urbanisation will require more of the materials that make these things possible, such as copper, aluminium, iron ore, lithium and minerals. If the materials that make renewable energy possible cause more harm in production than their products offset, nobody benefits.

Much of the technology we need to get to net zero by 2050 doesn’t exist today, so we need to contribute, support and partner to make it a reality. We’re building meaningful partnerships and connections to help us tackle challenges and drive change.

Breakthrough technologies also create opportunities for our business. For example, technology advances are helping our geologists to find new deposits, unlock previously economically unviable resources, and extending the life of existing assets. We’re also creating new products from waste. We became the first producer of scandium oxide in North America, using an innovative process we developed to extract high purity scandium oxide from waste streams without the need for any additional mining.

Dave and solar panels, Kennecott operations

Turning slime into solar panels

Our Kennecott copper mine is extracting a rare, valuable metal from waste
Straw biomass

A new way to decarbonise steel

Tackling a global challenge
Elysis aluminium

Carbon-free aluminium smelting is a step closer

Revolutionising the way aluminium is made

Funding research to transform the way materials are made

We’ve committed $150 million to create a Centre for Future Materials led by Imperial College London to find innovative ways to provide the materials the world needs for the energy transition. The ‘Rio Tinto Centre for Future Materials’ will fund research programs to transform the way vital materials are produced, used and recycled and make them more environmentally, economically and socially sustainable. The Centre will be established in the second half of 2023, with the first research programs funded in 2024. We’ll contribute $150 million over 10 years to fund the Centre.

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R&D and Technology

We’re using new technologies, data science, machine learning and artificial intelligence across our business.

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Tech & Start-ups

Investing in innovation.

Driving continuous improvement

In 2021, we launched the Safe Production System (SPS) to improve how we operate our assets, manage performance and help our people innovate. Through SPS, we are drawing on data more efficiently to understand asset health, maintenance scheduling and bottleneck solutions. We have started to see improved production efficiency, safety and engagement at the sites where we have deployed SPS. There are already hundreds of examples of how we are doing this. It applies to big, meaningful innovation and smaller everyday progress.

The story of Rio Tinto: A history of innovation

Our name, Rio Tinto, stems from an ancient copper mine next to the “Rio Tinto” river in Andalucia, Spain. Having operated for over 5,000 years, first by the Phoenicians and later by the Romans, the mine was considered a depleted resource. Then in 1873, a few English investors established the Rio Tinto company and bought the mine, which was seen as a very risky investment. But using innovation and technology, they rebuilt the mine and the infrastructure surrounding it. Within 10 years, it was the world’s largest producer of copper.

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Producing More, Emitting Less

Combined with the expertise of our highly trained, multigenerational workforce and access to renewable hydropower, we’re poised to deliver the lowest-carbon aluminium possible. And we’re just getting started.