City landscape

Partnerships in Asia for global impact

Working together to deliver decarbonisation, social support and commercial innovation

Last updated: 9 February 2024


Humanity faces some serious, imminent challenges – climate change, biodiversity loss, inequality and food security, to name just a few.

These are global problems – and solving them requires global solutions.

We’re passionate about providing the world with materials it needs to prosper. But to achieve that at a scale large enough to be impactful, strong partnerships are more important than ever.

Asia has played a huge role in our history – in fact, our Australian iron ore business was founded on a long-term contract to supply Japanese steel mills.

Today, our partners in Asia continue to play a major role in our growth and development. Our relationship with stakeholders throughout the regions isn’t limited to buying and selling either. More and more we’re innovating together, often offering global scale-up benefits as well.

Research for decarbonisation and innovation 

We aim to achieve net zero emissions from our operations (Scope 1 and 2) by 2050, while also supporting many of our customers and suppliers to meet their emissions targets (our Scope 3).

To achieve this, we need technologies that don’t exist yet. Technologies that don’t just require a lot of capital to develop, but also insights and expertise from many different industries and disciplines. Our partners in Asia are critical in this process of exploring many promising research projects and co-developing them at scale if successful.

We’ve been working with China Baowu – the world’s largest steel producer and our largest customer globally – on a range of projects that aim to reduce emissions across the steel value chain, including a pilot-scale electric melter and pelletisation technology. We’re partnering with POSCO and Hyundai Steel, South Korea’s largest steel producers, to integrate our iron ore processing with their specific steelmaking technology to reduce emissions. And with China’s Shougang Group – one of the world’s top 10 steel producers – we’re investing in technologies such as low-carbon sintering technology, blast furnace and basic oxygen furnace optimisation, and carbon capture and utilisation.

Since 2020, we’ve also been exploring ways to reduce emissions with Nippon Steel Corporation, Japan’s largest steel producer, and exploring opportunities to reduce emissions and transform the world’s supply chains with Japanese trading and investment company Mitsui. And since 2008, we’ve partnered with Komatsu, Japan’s largest mining machinery manufacturer, to roll out autonomous trucks at our operations. We’re now fast-tracking zero-emission mining haulage trucks with them too.

We also established the China Technology and Innovation Centre (CTIC) in 2022. The Centre aims to connect leading Chinese research and development with our internal expertise, to develop technological solutions to operational and business challenges. The CTIC also complements other long-term research partnerships in China, including the Tsinghua-Rio Tinto Joint Research Centre for Resources, Energy and Sustainable Development. We’ve worked with Tsinghua University since 2012, publishing hundreds of research papers, and making multiple policy recommendations to the Chinese government.

Support for community and development

Wherever we have a market presence around the world, we strive to contribute to a positive legacy for local communities. Through diverse social initiatives, we can make a lasting difference in people’s lives.

That’s why we support organisations such as the China Development Research Foundation (CDRF), which fosters economic development and social progress. We’ve partnered with the foundation for several years, helping to construct a unique rural revitalisation zone in Bijie, in China’s Guizhou Province. The region has already progressed an early childhood care program that’s so far supported more than 10,000 children, installed solar panel equipment to help local villagers transition to renewable energy, and delivered a cultural heritage program for local schools. In late 2023, we renewed our commitment through to 2027, with further programs planned that will support rural children, ecological development, and intangible cultural heritage protection.

With Komatsu, we delivered a 10-year scholarship at Tohoku University, assisting more than 300 students whose lives were affected by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami.

In 2022, we also joined Japan’s Sustainable Resources Engineering Education Consortium, led by the Graduate Schools of Engineering at Hokkaido University and Kyushu University, to nurture natural resources with advanced expertise and international perspective. We offer operational experience to the next generation of mining professionals by hosting students at our sites and delivering lectures as part of their degree programs.

And in 2023, we became an official supporter of the Japan Wheelchair Rugby Federation. Our aluminium and titanium are used to create stronger and lighter wheelchairs – so the sponsorship was a natural opportunity for us to continue to champion human potential.

Productive industry partnerships

A lot depends on the sustainable future of mining and, therefore, a lot depends on companies like ours having the right partnerships in place to help create that future.

Asia is our largest trading region* and we value our commercial partnerships across the continent.

Our latest joint venture with China Baowu is in the Pilbara, Western Australia. For more than 20 years we’ve been developing iron ore deposits together in the Pilbara’s Eastern Range, we’ve extended our arrangement with them to develop the Western Range. The renewal extends ongoing production of the Pilbara Blend, the market benchmark in high quality iron ore, while also aligning our joint interests in low-carbon steelmaking.

We're also partnering with China Baowu to progress the Simandou iron ore project in Guinea, along with CIOH, a Chinalco-led consortium, Winning Consortium Simandou and the Republic of Guinea. Simandou is set to be Africa’s largest integrated mine and infrastructure project and is home to the world’s largest known untapped high-grade iron ore deposit. The mine will deliver a significant new source of high-grade ore that further will strengthen our portfolio, complementing our Pilbara and high-grade Iron Ore Company of Canada products.

To reduce emissions in aluminium production, we’re working with Japanese trading and business investment company Sumitomo Corporation and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) to develop a hydrogen calcination plant for alumina refining in Gladstone, Queensland, Australia – the first of its kind. The goal is to demonstrate the viability of using hydrogen to reduce carbon emissions, which could pave the way for global adoption of the technology.

We’ve also partnered with Japan’s business conglomerate and trading house Marubeni to create responsible aluminium supply chains. The first sale was a batch of Rio Tinto’s RenewAlTM high purity aluminium, from the renewably powered New Zealand Aluminium Smelters (NZAS), a joint venture with Sumitomo Chemical.

To find better ways to providing the world with materials it needs, we’ll continue to seek out partnerships with businesses in Asia that share our strategic and sustainability goals.

*Consolidated sales revenue by destination, average from 5 years of figures from FY18–FY22, as per the annual report.

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