Working together

Working together

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 cultural heritage and ensure that Indigenous voices inform our planning and decision making.

We seek to operate in a manner consistent with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and we are committed to demonstrating progress towards or achieving the free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous peoples.

Cultural heritage

We know we have not always lived up to our own values in the way we approach cultural heritage.

While our teams on the ground work hard to protect heritage, we understand that there have been gaps in our broader approach across our business. We want to establish our heritage management as industry best practice and ensure the tragedy of Juukan Gorge is never repeated.

Our objective is to partner with communities, Indigenous people and organisations to implement meaningful change in the way that we manage and protect heritage. For example, we know that Indigenous Peoples want to talk directly to the people running the operations. So, we have made structural changes across our entire business so that cultural heritage responsibilities lie with our product groups and are fully embedded within our mining operations.

Working together to protect heritage

Our goal is to work closely with Indigenous and land-connected peoples to understand their physical, spiritual and cultural connection with the local environment.

Before we start to operate, we do cultural and environmental studies to understand the area, working with local people who live there, work there and know the land and waters.

Wherever we can, we avoid disturbing heritage sites. We employ archaeologists and scientists, and partner with Indigenous organisations, universities and government to find new and better ways to preserve cultural heritage and reduce our impact.

Where we have to disturb land, we consult with knowledge and rights holders. We work with them to preserve its value – for example by relocating artefacts – and we make sure we rehabilitate the land straight afterwards. Where possible, we also enable Indigenous peoples to maintain access to sites of cultural significance to maintain their connection and customary practices.


We acknowledge we must provide greater transparency in our agreements and commitments.

We are updating land access agreements in the Pilbara, Western Australia, where Traditional Owners have indicated that the current agreements have not met the  partnership aspirations we mutually sought at the outset. We will seek to agree an appropriate mechanism in our revised agreements so that there is a clear pathway for resolution of any differences of view that may emerge.

In Canada, we continue to work with Indigenous Peoples on the implementation of agreements signed with communities.

We will also continue to work with Indigenous peoples globally to increase the economic benefits that flow to their communities from employment, skills, training and business development.

Matt, Local Procurement Manager, Perth

Meet Matt

Local Procurement Manager, Perth

I grew up mostly in Perth as the second eldest of 6 kids. My wife is German and I have 3 kids all born in different countries, as we’ve moved overseas a lot throughout my career with Rio Tinto."


In February 2022 we agreed a new co-designed management plan with the Yinhawangka Aboriginal Corporation. The plan will ensure the protection of significant social and cultural heritage values as part of our proposed development of the Western Range iron ore project in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.

The Social and Cultural Heritage Management Plan is the result of strong collaboration over the past year between the Yinhawangka people and Rio Tinto, including on-Country visits, archaeological and ethnographic surveys and workshops.

We are continuing to improve our approach and we are engaging with other Traditional Owner groups in the Pilbara to develop similar plans.

I’m also from the Kungarakan Indigenous language group of the Finniss River region of the Northern Territory – our Native Title includes Litchfield National Park, a beautiful part of Australia. The cultural diversity within my own family means that it’s a challenge sometimes to bring together and preserve both the Indigenous and German cultures, but my wife and I try our best, as all parents do.

My interest in the mining industry was sparked in my teenage years when I discovered that my family conducted small-scale artisanal mining of a Cassiterite (Tin) deposit on Country in the early 1900s. The site is where several of my ancestors were born or grew up and so there is a deep connection to it. For me, it’s also evidence that its possible for mining and Indigenous interests to co-exist if it’s done in the right way.

I’ve also always sought new opportunities that help me get outside of my comfort zone, learn new things and interact with new people. I started with Rio Tinto as a graduate fresh out of university as I was drawn to the vast array of opportunities that come with being in a global company. Since then, I’ve lived in many exciting places around the world and been exposed to many functions and cultures that would’ve been beyond my wildest expectations as a new graduate.

The other reason why I’ve worked for the business for so many years is my aspiration to be part of a cultural change in the mining industry. My extended family have experienced great pain from the aftermath of mining on our Country in the 50s and 60s. Nothing can change this history, but it provides me with deep motivation to get involved and look for ways to transform how our company and industry works in true partnership with Traditional Owners.

The tragic destruction of the Juukan Gorge rock shelters in 2020 has certainly made for some difficult conversations with family and friends, but I feel that contributing to the healing and change process from inside the business will enable a faster, deeper and more sustainable transformation.

I look forward to a world where shareholder and community value are considered equally, and our efforts to create shareholder value have a direct and tangible link to community value. Most of all, I’m excited for a future where I’m working for a First Nations Chief Executive of Rio Tinto.”

A new day

In February 2020 we signed the New Day agreement with the Cheslatta Carrier Nation, a long-term partnership to support a strong future for the Cheslatta community and our hydroelectric operations in the Nechako Watershed. We had been engaged in a process of reconciliation with the Cheslatta Carrier Nation for more than a decade.

The New Day agreement promotes the social and economic wellbeing of the Cheslatta Carrier Nation through engagement in the areas of training, employment, business opportunities and environmental stewardship. Measures include support for a remote training center built on Cheslatta property in 2018, which delivers diverse trades, skills, safety, marine and driver training courses. The agreement also establishes the New Day Scholarship Fund, which provides scholarships for Cheslatta students of all ages.

To promote employment and business opportunities, we will work together with the Cheslatta to develop internships and promote a model relationship between a global industry leader and a modern and progressive First Nation. Information will also be shared on job positions and procurement opportunities within the company’s hydroelectric operations, as well as on potential Cheslatta candidates and suppliers.

The agreement also provides for the creation of the Nechako Reservoir Stewardship Program, a joint initiative that will leverage local knowledge to maintain the Nechako Reservoir watershed ecosystem while promoting recreation and tourism opportunities consistent with ongoing Cheslatta stewardship activities.

The wind is turning

In December 2022, we signed our first agreement with the Pekuakamiulnuatsh First Nation of Canada. Representatives from both partners will work together to recommend opportunities for employment, training, business, cultural heritage, environment, partnerships, energy transition and governance. The agreement will launch an Indigenous awareness program for Rio Tinto employees in the Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean region.

The Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people

In allowing the destruction of the rock shelters at Juukan Gorge to occur, we fell far short of our values as a company and breached the trust placed in us by the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura (PKKP) people and the Traditional Owners of the lands on which we operate. It is our collective responsibility to ensure that the destruction of a site of such exceptional cultural significance never happens again, to earn back the trust that has been lost and to re-establish our leadership in communities and social performance.

In November 2022, we agreed with the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura Aboriginal Corporation to create the Juukan Gorge Legacy Foundation. The Foundation was created as part of a remedy agreement relating to the destruction of the rock shelters at Juukan Gorge in the Pilbara region of Western Australia in May 2020.

Financial support is provided to the Traditional Owner-led Foundation to progress major cultural and social projects, including a new keeping place for storing important cultural materials.

We know there is more to do – regaining trust will take time and we will continue to be judged on our actions. We are grateful to the PKKP people for sharing their knowledge and guidance, and for walking beside us as we continue to learn how to better manage and protect cultural heritage.

Collaboration on Yindjibarndi Country  

We are exploring new economic models to increase First Nations participation in our business.

In October 2023, we announced a memorandum of understanding with the Yindjibarndi Energy Corporation to explore opportunities to collaborate on renewable energy projects on Yindjibarndi Country in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.

Together, we will consider a range of opportunities, including wind and solar power and battery energy storage systems.

20-year partnership

The Western Cape Communities Co-Existence Agreement (WCCCA) 20th Anniversary was celebrated on 15th June 2021 between Local Traditional Owners and Rio Tinto. The WCCCA agreement was one of the first Indigenous Land Use Agreements between a mining company and Traditional Owners in Australia and set a precedent for Rio Tinto and the industry.

Business development

We support local businesses, employ local people and buy local products, especially from Indigenous, small and regional businesses. In 2023, we spent more than A$725 million with Indigenous businesses across Australia – an increase of 28% on the year before. We are also increasing our spend with local and Indigenous businesses in Canada and the US. In 2023, we spent $190 million with Indigenous suppliers in North America. We do not always get it right, but when our local suppliers have concerns, we listen and learn. In February 2023, at our Rincon lithium project in Argentina, some members of local Indigenous suppliers blocked a road to the site due to concerns about the procurement process. We met with the communities, listened to the issues and made changes to facilitate their ability to access contracts.

Indigenous procurement strategies

Find out more about our local strategies:

Rio Tinto Buy Local →
Weipa Local and Indigenous Participation Strategy →
Diavik Diamond Mine →


Here are some of the ways we are working with Indigenous communities around the world:

  • Clontarf Foundation, Australia

    We are long-term partners of The Clontarf Foundation, which works to improve the education, discipline, life skills, self-esteem and employment prospects of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth. Foundation graduates can join our business via apprenticeships, traineeships and university scholarships.

  • North America’s first Indigenous-owned and operated railroad

    In 2005, the Iron Ore Company of Canada (IOC) sold part of the local railway for $1 to a collective of 3 Indigenous communities who live in the area: the Innu of Uashat Mak Mani-Utenam and Matimekush-Lac John, and the Naskapi Nation of Kawawachikamach. Since then, the service from Sept-Îles to Schefferville in Quebec, Canada, has brought employment and economic activity. Today, 98% of Tshiuetin Rail’s workforce is from Schefferville and Sept-Îles, and the railway provides job opportunities for young people too.

  • Tribal monitoring program, US

    To help identify and protect culturally significant areas, in 2018 we partnered with the USDA Forest Service (USFS) to establish a Tribal Monitoring program. The first of its kind in the United States, the program trains and employs tribal members to work as part of specialised teams that identify and record important Native American sites and artifacts. Tribal Monitors provide a unique perspective and traditional ecological knowledge alongside archaeological insights.

    The program provides another way for tribes to participate in the project's development, along with jobs, education and land stewardship opportunities for tribal members. Today, the program employs around 50 members from 7 Native American tribes to help conduct the ongoing environmental and cultural heritage activities.

  • Centre d’Affaires Régional Anosy (CARA), Madagascar

    Established in 2012 to support local businesses, CARA is a partnership between QMM, the Integrated Pole of Growth project, Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Fort Dauphin and the Association for the Promotion of Entrepreneurship. Its work includes providing finance, marketing and training to micro, small and medium-sized businesses and has, since inception, trained more than 4,500 people and supported around 200 businesses.

Related content

Photos from Yinjaa-Barni Art, Roebourne

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
Blue sky

Juukan Gorge

We are committed to learning the lessons and have taken decisive action
Woman in QMM community selecting raffia to make handicraft products

Community agreements

We are proud to be the first mining company in Australia to embrace native title to land and to form agreements with Traditional Owners