Employee on site

We're All in This Together

We are doing what we can to prevent or help stop the spread of COVID-19 – at our operations, at home or with our customers, partners and host communities. We know we will get through this difficult time – because we are all in this together. 

147 years of putting safety first

Every shift, every day, nothing is more important than safety. Because we’ve always been in this together.

Meet Our People

Daniel, Marandoo, Pilbara

Working Together, Staying Apart

Daniel's Story

Daniel is a mining engineer at our Marandoo iron ore mine in the Pilbara, Western Australia. Here’s how his team is using technology to stay apart and stay safe.

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“I’m a mining engineer on site at Marandoo, but my job is as much about working with people as machines. So, like everyone, I’ve had to rethink the way I work in response to COVID-19.

We have some engineers that work remotely, and so our team thought: ‘what can we learn from them?’

It made us focus on how we were using technology. For some reason Pac-Man came to mind. I think it’s because, just like Pac-Man eating all the dots in its path, we need to get and use as many of the technology options we have available. We are constantly asking ourselves – do we really need to be physically present to do this? How can we use technology to do it more safely and efficiently?

One example of what we’ve done is the ramp-up of our drone flights – we’re now doing them daily. We’re also using our mine pit cameras more to monitor progress, and give us up to date information. That means we need to visit the mine less in person.

Our health and safety teams have been busy putting other safeguards in place around site: all our rooms have been measured and marked out so we know the maximum number of people that can be in an area at one time. And we have crosses marked on the floor too to help us keep a safe distance when we are in the room.

We’re doing ‘hazard hunts’ to find ways we can improve, and we’re learning from other teams too. I think it’s up to us, all of us, to change the way we do things – so we can all make a difference.”

Dr Oswaldo Ortiz

Dr Oswaldo Ortiz

One of our global team of medical professionals
COVID-19 has really called on my knowledge and experience. Everything I’ve learned has come into practice during this pandemic. 

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I’ve been at Rio for almost a decade – before that I worked close to ten years for other mining companies in Peru, where I was born. Infectious diseases are a very important topic there.

I was very lucky to attend a university with an internationally recognised centre for the study of infectious diseases. My professors there were remarkable microbiologists, infectious disease specialists and epidemiologists. I used to think that one day I would be a university lecturer! But my career took a different direction and I am so glad it did.

Today, I’m working with our business to make sure we are doing absolutely everything we can to keep our people and communities safe – every shift, every day. Wherever they are and whatever they do. Mental health is also really important because it’s an anxious time, not only for our employees but for their families.

It’s a huge responsibility, and an important one – but honestly, to me nothing is more important. And I’m so glad I can help.”

Dr. Oswaldo Ortiz (pictured with his children) is one of our global team of medical professionals helping us respond to COVID-19 

James Spencer

Apprentice electrician, weipa operations, australia, and creator of the "spencer step"
“We had a meeting about keeping high touch areas cleaner, and later that day it just came to me: there are about 20 doors around here that we need to keep closed to stop the dust from moving through – but closing all those doors means a lot of contact.
James Spencer, Weipa Operations, Australia

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I thought: I bet I can find a way to open them without touching the handles. So I came up with the idea for this step – a bracket with an upturned lip for traction, and red and silver tape so you can’t miss it.  And now we can open doors with our feet!

I guess we’re calling it the “Spencer Step,” which is nice. I’ll be honest, I usually come up with the idea for something, make it first and think about the planning later! I’m working with Chrisden and we are coming up with a plan so we can share it with our colleagues all over the world, so they can make their own. Here at Weipa, and I know other places around the world too, if we were to get sick and not be able to work it would have a big impact on our community. And you know, if there's anything I can do to stop that, I feel good about. Because it helps our community – and it means I am doing my part.”

After all the hard work and dedication and sacrifice, sometimes the only thing you can say is thank you. So from all of us to all of you – thank you. Proud to be in this together.

Doing What We Can to Keep Our Communities Safe

In these difficult times, we aim to keep our communities safe by doing what we can to not put them at risk. We are pledging $25 million to help our communities fight. This funding will include:

  • The supply of masks and protective equipment to support energy and health professionals
  • Donations to national and local communities, hospitals and international agencies
  • Provision of ventilation units and temporary medical units
  • Further investment in education and financial literacy programs, as remote learning becomes the global norm for children
Frontline workers, truck drivers, grocery store staff and so many more – are working hard to help us in the fight against COVID-19 – and we want to play our part. So we are investing US$10m to support our communities in Canada and the US. This investment draws on our US$25m global fund to support our communities in the COVID-19 response and recovery – as well as on existing programmes such as the Rio Tinto Aluminium Canada Fund and Regional Economic Development Fund.

Supporting vital scientific research into COVID-19

Melbourne, Australia

We have donated A$670,000 to the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Melbourne, Australia, to help scientists better understand how COVID-19 affects children.

Medical testing

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The research – which is focused on children’s immune systems – will help scientists understand the disease and how it progresses, how it spreads within families, and the long-term effects of COVID-19 on our immune systems. We are proud to play some small part in expanding the world’s understanding of COVID-19 and help protect our communities – and especially our children – in the future.

Dr. Abdallah, CareFlight Northern Operations

Some heroes wear stethoscopes, not capes

Helping CareFlight deliver emergency aeromedical care in the Northern Territory, Australia

For Dr. Naomi Abdallah, being winched from a helicopter is a regular day in the office.

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She is part of CareFlight Northern Operation’s all-female doctor team, providing emergency aeromedical care to communities throughout Australia’s Northern Territory – including the Gove Peninsula, where our bauxite operations are based. We are investing A$500,000 in CareFlight Northern Operations so that Dr. Abdallah and her team can continue to help those who need it most – part of our A$1.1 million commitment to support the communities in East Arnhem, in the north eastern part of the Northern Territory during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

Meet CareFlight’s Dr. Naomi Abdallah >

Working with our partners to help protect our local communities

Australia

In Australia, we have donated 6,000 litres of locally made hand soap to Indigenous communities, who are especially at risk from the coronavirus.

Hand sanitiser, Pilbara Operations

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We are working with one of our local business partners, Matic Transport, to get these critical supplies more than 15,000 kilometres to Indigenous communities in the remotest parts of Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory. We have also donated more than 600 litres of soap and cleaning products to nine schools and child care centres throughout the Pilbara, Western Australia, to help them reopen safely.

RFDS Queensland at the airport

Partners in health

Helping the Royal Flying Doctor Service deliver vital care to remote communities, Queensland, Australia
Everyone deserves help, when help is needed most. That’s why, for nearly two decades, we have been proud partners with the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) in Western Australia. We are delighted to announce that we are strengthening our support across Australia investing A$1.25m over five years to help the RFDS better serve Queensland.

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Our support will help improve health services for people in the state’s remote and rural areas and critical health care across Queensland – including telehealth and mental health services. It will also help the RFDS deliver faster and even better emergency medical care for communities near our operations, through a new facility in Weipa and support of an existing one in Gladstone.

Find out more on why the RFDS and Rio Tinto are a match made in heaven >

Helping Small Businesses Grow

Startup ramps up mask production, Quebec, Canada

In Quebec, we invested C$75,000 to help Enterprise Prémont, a new company that makes surgical masks, grow – and help the community along the way.

Enterprise Prémont, Quebec, Canada

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With our investment, this startup has added a new production line, hired more people and can make hundreds of thousands more masks per week for hospitals, retirement homes and other essential industries. So proud to be in this together with small businesses like Enterprise Prémont!

3D printing face shields

Robotics students use 3D printing to help health workers

Resolution Copper, Arizona, US

Students at Globe High School in Globe, Arizona, wanted to make sure local hospitals had the safety equipment they needed to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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So they teamed up with FIRST, a global robotics community, to come up with a way to 3D print face shields for doctors and nurses. The shield frames can be sanitised and reused, and the plastic face cover can be replaced as needed. Genius!

The team hopes to produce around 100 face shields a week. As partners of the Globe High School Robotics programme, we couldn’t be happier to see them pioneer progress.

Supporting Communities in Madagascar

QMM OPERATIONS, madagascar

Turning a building into a treatment centre.

Supporting communities in Madagascar

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At QMM, our operation in the Anosy region of Madagascar, we have upgraded a building, turning it into a dedicated treatment centre that can receive up to 108 patients, and treat 60 people – including up to 32 needing intensive care. We have also donated an ambulance and two 4x4 vehicles, so that medical teams can more easily reach people where and when they need them, especially in more remote areas.

Ava helping to create care packages

Great Neighbours: Lacey & Ava

Brisbane, australia
I was talking to the kids about what was going on and that for some people this is an especially hard time. I asked them, what could we give them to help them make it through? 

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And the kids said – let’s give them our Wi-Fi password! [Editor’s note: there are days we think Wi-Fi is more important than food, too.]

But then we spoke more, and they came up with the idea of putting care packages together. People in the office had donated toiletries they collect while travelling, so we used those, and of course we included toilet paper too. Ava wrote a card for each of them and decorated the bags too, and then we dropped them off in our neighbours’ letterboxes.

One of the older ladies on our street lives by herself so she was feeling especially isolated – but when she saw the care package she was so overwhelmed. She stopped by to thank the kids (she kept a safe distance of course) – and it was a really lovely moment to show the kids the impact even small acts of kindness can have on the people around us.”

Lacey works at our office in Brisbane, and Ava is her special helper
Frontline workers, truck drivers, grocery store staff and so many more – are working hard to help us in the fight against COVID-19 – and we want to play our part. So we are investing US$10m to support our communities in Canada and the US. This investment draws on our US$25m global fund to support our communities in the COVID-19 response and recovery – as well as on existing programmes such as the Rio Tinto Aluminium Canada Fund and Regional Economic Development Fund.

FIFO Care Packages

Gove Operations, australia

At Gove, in the Northern Territory of Australia, we welcomed our Fly-In Fly-Out (FIFO) teams with care packages. It is a tough time to be away from family and friends, and sometimes even small things can help. 

Care packages, Gove

Keeping Our People Safe

Staying connected, even when we are apart – a virtual safety interaction with our Chief Executive

We have been making some changes to the way we do things on site to keep our people safe and our operations running. In Gove, we have been running virtual safety interactions, with our Chief Executive J-S Jacques recently joining an inspection of one of our bauxite conveyor belts. It is just one way we are staying connected, even when we are far apart.  
  • Physical distancing, Cape Lambert, Pilbara
    Cape Lambert, Australia
    During pre-start in Cape Lambert, the team ensures they maintain a physical distance of at least 1.5 metres
  • Hand sanitiser, Bell Bay
    Bell Bay, Australia
    Our aluminium operations in Australia and New Zealand are developing hand sanitiser at our on-site laboratories. At Bell Bay, after a successful 5-litre test batch, an extra 75 litres of hand sanitiser is now being produced.
  • Producing hand sanitiser, RTFT
    RTFT, Canada
    Simon is a Research Technician at our Rio Tinto Iron and Titanium Technology Centre in Sorel-Tracy, Canada – here he is labelling our RTFT-manufactured hand sanitiser
  • Practicing social distancing in meetings, Pilbara
    Pilbara, Australia
    We're practicing physical distancing during meetings in the Pilbara
  • Safety signage, BC Works
    BC Works, Canada
    In Kitimat, signage keeps employees in the know about safety precautions (and grizzly bears)
  • X marks the spot, Brisbane
    Brisbane, Australia
    In Brisbane, X marks the spot - for physical distancing, that is
  • Hygiene packs, Kennecott
    Kennecott, US
    At Kennecott, "hygiene packs" like this one are available for all employees to keep commonly-touched surfaces clean

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