Photo of employee talking to the chief in the Mafindou community near Beyla, Guinea

Communities

The strength of our relationships with the communities where we operate, and broader society, is fundamental to our business. Without the support from host communities we cannot operate successfully.

Through our partnerships, we strive to support communities in achieving their aspirations and improve lives by contributing to social and economic outcomes, all while respecting and protecting their connection to culture and nature.

We have evolved our approach to engaging with communities and Indigenous Peoples across our business. By listening to understand, being willing to learn from our mistakes, and genuine partnering, we will deliver better long-term outcomes for everyone. And it enhances our understanding and appreciation of the people and diverse cultures in the geographies where we work. Our relationships with Indigenous Peoples are a priority for us, and we especially value our agreements with Indigenous People of the lands on which operate.

Communities and Social Performance Commitments Disclosure Report

The destruction of the rock shelters at Juukan Gorge in May 2020 was a clear breach of our values and the trust placed in us by Indigenous peoples to respect the lands on which we operate. In the three and a half years since, we have been changing the way we work in every part of our business.

We have been working hard to implement meaningful change in the way Indigenous cultural heritage within our operations is managed and protected.

In September 2022, we released our second and final Communities and Social Performance Commitments Disclosure Report. The report details progress made in areas such as partnering with Pilbara Traditional Owners in modernising and improving agreements; introducing a new Communities and Social Performance model across the company; improving our governance, planning and systems relating to communities; and increasing Indigenous leadership and developing cultural competency within Rio Tinto.

The update on our commitments is now integrated into our Annual Report.

Communities and Social Performance Commitments Disclosure 2022
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Communities and social performance targets

In 2023, we progressed initiatives towards our 2026 Communities and Social Performance targets. We focused on developing and implementing frameworks and measurement criteria for both cultural heritage co-management and social investment strategic partnerships. Our human rights training continued throughout the year, with planning for expanded online learning programs.

Communities and social performance targets 2022–26
Reporting status

All sites will co-manage cultural heritage with communities and knowledge holders by 2026.

We independently assessed 25 assets against the Cultural Heritage Co-management Maturity Framework with 8 assets performing at level 4 (Integrated), 7 at level 3 (defined), 9 at level 2 (emerging) and 1 at level 1 (learning)1.

Year-on-year increase in contestable spend sourced from suppliers local to our operations.

We sourced 16.8% of contestable spend from suppliers local to our operations. This was a 2.3% increase from 2022. Progress for each product group is included in the 2023 Sustainability Fact Book.

70% of total social investment will be made through strategic, outcomes focused partnerships by 2026.

Outcome Indicator Framework and Strategic Partnering Principles were developed and endorsed in 2023 with self-assessment and baseline data to be collected in 2024.

All employees in high-risk human rights roles will complete job-specific human rights training by 2024; and all employees will complete general human rights training by 2026.

Our human rights team delivered 35 tailored training sessions, targeting 11 assets and 12 functional teams globally. We recorded 2,441 completions of our modern slavery e-learning module, representing 66% of employees and contractors2 in modern slavery high-risk roles.

How we work with communities

Mining and processing, by its very nature, disturbs the environment and can impact surrounding communities. It also delivers significant economic and social benefits, including the production of essential materials, employment, small business development, tax and royalty streams, training and skills development, and socioeconomic programs.

We recognise that while the benefits of our activities are widespread, many of the negative impacts are localised. Our teams work in partnership with communities to understand how our activities impact their lives, culture and heritage. Through meaningful engagement, we can respond to community concerns, mitigate negative impacts and optimise socioeconomic benefits.

Everywhere we work, through all stages of the life of our operations, we respect and support all internationally recognised human rights, in line with the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the United Nations Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights.

Our teams – everyone from archaeologists and economic development experts to human rights specialists and our operational leaders – work in partnership with our communities to understand how our work affects their lives, their culture and their heritage. By doing so, we can respond to community concerns and work to optimise benefits and reduce negative impacts, both for the local community and for the company.

Our communities and social performance standard defines the way we engage communities, and outlines the steps we take to identify and manage social, economic, environmental, cultural and human rights impacts throughout the life cycle of our projects, from exploration, to project development, to operation and closure. It also outlines our approach for managing and responding to community concerns and complaints, as well as closing operational sites.

We consult and engage with our communities regularly, in good faith, and in ways that are transparent, inclusive, and culturally appropriate. For example, we often have community information centres in local towns and villages and toll-free contact numbers community members can call with questions or complaints. We design our engagement so it is relevant and appropriate for the local context, in terms of method of communication and language.

We seek to ensure that our engagement practices respect human rights, that diverse voices are heard and that vulnerable and “at risk” groups can participate in engagement processes. As part of this engagement, we address community concerns, needs and priorities.

In addition, we only award work to contractors who are able to comply with and deliver our Group and site-specific communities and social performance requirements, as well as any local requirements. We also look for ways to increase our leverage to help our business partners respect human rights in line with international standards.

We measure, monitor and review our communities and social performance against targets, to help us continue improving. This includes reporting and communicating on how we are addressing human rights impacts, both positive and negative.

Communities & Social Performance Standard
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Engaging with communities on a low-carbon future

We believe we have an important role to play in ensuring that the green energy transition is progressed in a fair and socially inclusive way. This is a key focus for our communities and social performance teams and will include active community engagement, managing potential adverse social and human rights impacts and exploring and enabling ways for host communities to share in economic opportunities.

In 2021, our QIT Madagascar Minerals (QMM) and its partners laid the foundation stone for a new solar and wind energy plant. In addition to allowing our operations in Madagascar to be carbon neutral by 2023, the plant will replace the majority of the electricity supplied to Fort-Dauphin and its 80,000 community members with clean energy. QMM and its partners are working with local authorities to develop manufacturing capacity to produce equipment for the renewable industry locally.

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Sustainability reporting

We have a responsibility to extract the full value from the minerals and materials we produce in the safest and most sustainable way possible.

Progress in 2023

  • Year in review
  • Year in numbers

Strengthening social performance

We continue to strengthen our social performance capacity and capability to be better operators and partners. Throughout 2023, our CSP practitioners undertook online learning, communities of practice and face-to face cross-functional workshops. We have also added central roles in key areas such as heritage, agreements and human rights.

Understanding and acting on the perceptions of communities who host our operations is essential. In 2023, we trialled a new program which will be rolled out across the Group in 2024 and 2025, to help us more effectively engage and better understand our host communities’ perceptions, leading to improved data-driven social performance.

Relationships

We are finding better ways to work with communities and Indigenous Peoples, particularly in how we protect heritage. We are moving to a model of co-management, working in partnership with Indigenous Peoples across our operations. Our approach aims to enhance our understanding and appreciation of Indigenous cultural heritage and ensure that Indigenous voices inform our planning and decision making.

Governance and process

During 2023, we continued to revise our standards, systems and processes to ensure we are working responsibly to avoid and minimise impacts and risks to our operations, people and communities.

Australian Advisory Group

We established an Australian Advisory Group to provide guidance on current and emerging issues, and better manage policies and positions that are important to both Australian communities and our broader business. The group met 4 times in 2023, including site visits to Weipa and the Pilbara. An independent review of the AAG was finalised in October to ensure the AAG continues to operate in a way that adds genuine value to our business.

Our cultural heritage risks

We have now operationalised the set of controls that manage our cultural heritage risks, with an emphasis placed on understanding the control performance at a local level. Our global Communities and Social Performance Area of Expertise continues to provide subject matter advice and support to our assets to strengthen the risk assessment processes across our business.

Independent cultural heritage management audit

In March 2023, we published an independent report (produced by ERM, a global sustainability consultancy) on a global audit of our cultural heritage management performance. The audit was completed throughout 2021 and 2022 across 20 assets in Australia and 17 assets in other countries where we operate, including Canada, South Africa, US and Mongolia. The audit identified areas where we are achieving leading cultural heritage practices but also areas where we need to improve our performance. Based on the report recommendations, we are developing a consolidated action plan and a cultural heritage maturity model to monitor progress across the business.

Independent Cultural Heritage Management Audit
Independent Cultural Heritage Management Audit
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Independent Cultural Heritage Management Audit [ES]
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Independent Cultural Heritage Management Audit [FR]
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Leadership and inclusion

We are evolving our culture to encourage a mindset and behavioural shift at all levels of our organisation. We have a program of work in progress that focuses on advancing respect for the peoples and cultures on whose land we live and work, which links closely to the work we are doing as part of the Everyday Respect initiative.

We are fast-tracking Indigenous Australians into professional and leadership roles to ensure we have a stronger representation of diverse voices at our decision-making tables in Australia. In 2023, we revised our target to have 100 Indigenous leaders by 2025. Having true diversity of perspectives, and an Indigenous lens on decision making, will guide our company moving forward.

Creating an environment that is safe for Indigenous employees is a priority. Our cultural safety initiative “Care for Mob” will be delivered against a national framework in partnership with the Everyday Respect taskforce to ensure all employees feel safe, supported and respected. In 2023, we launched the Elevating Voices Network in Australia.

The Network is led by a small group of Indigenous and non-Indigenous employee volunteers who come together to activate events, activities and conversations.

Truth and reconciliation

In 2023, we supported the referendum for an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice in the Australian Constitution and provided a corporate donation to the “Yes” campaign. The “No” outcome does not change our support for constitutional recognition for Indigenous Australians. As one of the largest employers of Indigenous Australians and a company that operates on the lands of Indigenous Peoples, we have long supported constitutional recognition for Indigenous Australians.

In Canada, we continue to create learning opportunities for our people to raise awareness about the history, culture and rights of Indigenous Peoples. In 2023, we introduced a new online training on awareness of Indigenous culture and issues, across all our Canadian sites. We held a series of educational events to celebrate National Indigenous History Month, and to commemorate Truth and Reconciliation Day.

Indigenous participation

In 2023 we re-established the Aboriginal Training and Liaison (ATAL) program through a co-design process with the Traditional Owner groups we work with in the Pilbara. This work-ready program is focused on empowering participants to develop skills for ongoing employment in different jobs and industries across the Pilbara.

Operation and project updates

  • QIT Madagscar Minerals (QMM) Madagascar

    In 2023, QMM faced protests led by representatives of a local association. The protests affected the safety and well-being of employees and people in the communities and in October 2023, an altercation between protesters and public security forces escalated into violence. Public security forces officially reported one person died, and one person was injured. We are committed to learning from this tragic event and will work together with local communities and other stakeholders through open, meaningful, and respectful dialogue to seek to prevent such incidents in the future and find safe, peaceful and long-term solutions to community concerns. In 2023, QMM committed to increase its community and social investment spend to $4 million per year, on projects to be co-designed with communities, authorities and government, and which are consistent with local, regional and national development plans. This is part of a range of initiatives aimed at maintaining trust and collaboration with local communities. Our commitment to reforestation also continues through our initiative to help local communities establish village tree nurseries.

  • Resolution Copper project, Arizona, US

    At our Resolution Copper project, we are committed to preserving Native American and local community cultural heritage and bringing lasting benefits to the entire region. We continue to strengthen relationships with local communities and Native American tribes by deepening our engagement and partnership support. In 2023, we signed agreements with a number of Native American tribes with ancestral ties to the land, to work together on youth recreation, cultural preservation and economic initiatives. We also finalised a Good Neighbour agreement with the Town of Superior to define the relationship with the town and local community groups over the life of the mine. Resolution Copper also entered into several multi-year partnership agreements with local and national-level Native American organisations supporting education and youth recreation, including the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES), the Native American Basketball Invitational (NABI) and the Belvado Foundation at the San Carlos Apache community.

  • Simandou project, Guinea

    At our Simandou iron ore project, we work with local communities to design and deliver local social investment programs, regional economic development programs and livelihood restoration initiatives to build community resilience and support the future of the operation. By raising local capacities, engaging with local entrepreneurs, and investing in training and development, we hope to contribute to a better future for the local communities. We also work with our infrastructure and joint venture partners to ensure a consistent application of internationally recognised environmental and social performance standards across the entire project. And we are implementing human rights due diligence processes to understand our potential human rights impacts and ensure our employees, contractors and those in the local communities are treated with dignity and respect.

  • Oyu Tolgoi, Mongolia

    At Oyu Tolgoi, we strive to be a leader in sustainable social and economic change through partnerships with local communities and government. Since 2015, we have made an annual contribution to the regional Development Support Fund (DSF) – administered jointly by Oyu Tolgoi and the community – for community initiatives in the Umnugovi aimag. In 2023, the fund provided $6.2 million to help complete a local school, kindergarten and health care centre and construct sewage pipelines, pasture irrigation, waste plant and rare animal protection projects. This has improved accessibility and provided a better standard of living for community members. The Future Generation Special Fund makes up 5% of the annual DSF investment and provides development opportunities for youth. In 2023, 114 local students were awarded the Goviin Oyu scholarship to study in specialist fields. Since 2015, 519 students have received scholarships, and of these, 70% have been hired for jobs in their local communities. Employment from the local communities at Oyu Tolgoi increased by 10% in 2023 due to a comprehensive recruitment process and local talent development. There is also a focus on strengthening the local and national supply chain with local spending increasing from $261 million in 2022 to $272 million in 2023. In 2023, Oyu Tolgoi committed $50 million over five years to support the Khanbogd Soum town development by 2040. Some infrastructure projects are already underway, including the construction of a road, a public square, a recreational sport centre and the renovation of the local hospital. Oyu Tolgoi also continues to work with herders, local communities and the government to improve water accessibility and address the increased demand for water.

  • Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinée SA (CBG), Guinea

    CBG is a bauxite operation in Guinea owned by Halco Mining Inc. (51%) and the Guinean Government (49%). Halco is a consortium comprised of Rio Tinto (45%), Alcoa (45%) and Dadco Investments (10%). Rio Tinto participates on the boards of Halco and CBG, with representation on various shareholder oversight committees. Through our Board and committee roles, we monitor and support CBG’s approach to environmental protection, community issues and human rights. We are aware of the concerns regarding access to land and water, and the pace of livelihood restoration programs as well as concerns regarding CBG’s stakeholder engagement. In 2023, sustainability advisory committees at Halco and CBG levels met regularly, strengthening our governance oversight and providing support to CBG for the improvement of CBG’s social and environmental practices, including for the development of an ongoing human rights due diligence process. Both the Halco and CBG advisory committees are closely following CBG’s response to a complaint made to the International Finance Corporation’s (IFC) Office of the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO). The mediation process facilitated by the CAO has conducted four plenary sessions and several other bilateral meetings between the parties in 2023. Through a collaborative approach, important progress was made with agreements on CBG’s practices on stakeholder engagement and management of grievances. Additionally, the implementation of previous agreements on blasting and access to water have progressed, delivering positive outcomes to local communities. Halco continues to participate in the mediation process as an observer, alongside the IFC.

  • Panguna mine, Bougainville, Papua New Guinea

    The Panguna mine was operated by Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL), majority-owned by Rio Tinto, for 17 years from 1972 until 1989, when operations were suspended due to a civil war, which lasted until 1998. In 2016, Rio Tinto transferred its 53.83% majority shareholding in BCL to the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) and the Papua New Guinea (PNG) Government for no consideration, enabling the ABG and PNG to hold an equal share in BCL of 36.4% each.

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

    In 2021, as an outcome of the AusNCP engagement, a joint committee of stakeholders, the Panguna Mine Legacy Impact Assessment Committee, was formed to oversee a detailed independent assessment of the Panguna mine to identify and better understand the environmental and human rights impacts of the mine. The Committee is chaired by an independent facilitator with representatives from the ABG, the Independent State of PNG, clan leaders and landowners, local communities, Rio Tinto, BCL and HRLC. It has met regularly since its formation.

    In 2021, the Committee commissioned the Panguna Mine Preparatory Phase Report to inform priority areas for the Impact Assessment. Completed in 2022, the report identified risks of potential failure of the levee at the former Main/Pump station, and potential flooding events along the Kawerong and Jaba river. On behalf of the ABG, Tetra Tech Coffey completed on-the-ground investigations in October 2022 and will present findings to the ABG who will determine next steps.

    In 2022, the Committee selected and endorsed Tetra Tech Coffey to complete phase 1 of the independent environmental, social and human rights Legacy Impact Assessment. The Legacy Impact Assessment began in December 2022 and will provide all parties with a clearer understanding of the impacts, so that together we can consider the best way forward.

  • Jadar lithium-borates project, Serbia

    We continue to believe that the Jadar lithium borates project in Serbia can contribute to enhancing the electric vehicle supply chain ecosystem in Serbia. We continue to explore options with all stakeholders on how to progress this world-class opportunity to the highest environmental standards.

Social contribution

Supporting economic opportunities for our host communities and regions is a key priority for us and we strive to employ local people, buy local products and engage local services. In 2022, our total voluntary global social investment was $62.6 million, covering a wide range of social and economic programs. In 2022, we spent $2.7 billion with suppliers local to our operations, which is 14.5% of our total contestable spend.

Indigenous rights

We seek to operate in a manner consistent with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which recognises the right of Indigenous peoples to ‘maintain and strengthen their distinctive spiritual relationship with their traditionally owned or otherwise occupied and used lands, territories, waters and coastal seas and other resources’ (Article 25).

We strive to obtain the free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous peoples (as defined in the IFC Performance Standard 7 on “Indigenous Peoples”) in line with the International Council on Mining and Metals position statement on Indigenous peoples and mining.

We provide easily accessible ways for community members to provide feedback and make complaints, in line with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights - so we can work on issues together and take remedial actions where needed. Every site is required to have a complaints, disputes and grievances mechanism that operates in line with these criteria.

Guided by global standards

Our communities approach aligns with the ICMM Sustainability Framework, the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights. We use the International Finance Corporation's (IFC) Performance Standards on Environmental and Social Sustainability; our CSP standard commits us to compliance with the following IFC Performance Standards:

  • IFC PS1: Assessment and Management of Environmental and Social Risks and Impacts
  • IFC PS5: Land Acquisition and Involuntary Resettlement

We also support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

How we engage with our communities

When we engage with our communities, we aim to:

  • Interact proactively, early and often
  • Listen actively to community views
  • Communicate openly about our company and proposals
  • Provide adequate resources for engagement activities
  • Invest in relationships for the long term
  • Integrate engagement into the business plans of all functions and units
  • Respect cultural protocols
  • Hear the full range of views and interests, including minority and divergent views

Land acquisition and resettlement

Resettlement is a measure of last resort. From time to time, in order to run a safe, viable operation, we have to resettle communities. We do this only when all other options have been explored and exhausted.

We respect people’s land rights and work hard to help to preserve the social harmony of resettled people and we have policies and processes in place to make sure their standard of living and livelihood is sustainably restored or improved over the long term. We ensure our practices are in line with the International Finance Corporation's Land Acquisition and Involuntary Resettlement Performance Standard and our other international human rights commitments. We also ensure community members have access to rights-compatible complaints mechanisms that enable us to solve problems together and take remedial actions when needed.

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Policies and standards

Learn more about our Group policies and standards

Related content

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Community agreements

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Cultural heritage

Cultural heritage is the aspects of a community's past and present that it considers valuable and wants to pass on to future generations
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Social and economic development 

We work hard to leave a lasting, positive legacy everywhere we work