Dry land

Physical climate risk and resilience

From tropical cyclones and extreme heat in Australia to wildfires across Canada, the impacts of extreme weather on our operations are real.

And as our climate continues to change, extreme weather events like these will happen more often and more intensely. We know we need to plan for and manage climate risks accordingly so our operations, communities, partners and people can continue to operate safely, productively and profitably, now and in the future.

We've made progress during 2023 to manage physical climate risk, and will continue this important work in 2024 and beyond.

Our approach

Our 4 key pillars for physical climate risk assessment and resilience are:

  • Weather and climate analytics and insights
  • Physical risk and resilience assessment
  • Resilience planning and adaptation
  • Monitoring and evaluation

We use the latest generation weather and climate data to model our climate risks and quantify our exposure:

  • Weather and severe weather forecasts: Our sites use weather forecasts and severe weather warnings for short-term operational planning and to trigger emergency response planning.
  • Climate outlooks: We use this information for operational mine planning, to bolster operational resilience, and prepare for rainy seasons.
  • Catastrophe modelling: We estimate the potential financial losses and damages from extreme climate events like tropical cyclones and floods.
  • Climate change projections: We use long-term climate change projections for:
    • asset-level and Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management (GISTM) physical risk and resilience assessments
    • operations, closure planning and execution
    • exploration, projects and mine water management
    • finance and insurance.

Climate change projections are available for all sites, including non-managed assets. Downscaled climate change projections are available for more than 60 climate change variables and future emissions scenarios from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Coupled Model Intercomparison Project 5 (CMIP5) and 6 (CMIP6).

We use a targeted and systematic process to assess the physical and financial risks to our people, the communities that host us, our operations, the environments we operate in, and our supply chains.

Through a robust process, we identify climate risks and opportunities across applicable time horizons and emissions scenarios, evaluate their potential consequences and likelihood, and prioritise them by materiality for effective risk management and appropriate resource allocation. This process is integrated within the Rio Tinto risk management information system.

Although we plan for many possibilities, climate change projections can be uncertain, and we don’t know which scenario might eventuate. But regardless of how climate change affects the world, we know that we need to plan for options that will help us adapt to physical climate risk.

Each site, operating context, and location is unique. So we explore multiple resilience options, weighing up how sustainable, manageable, and flexible they are, and how we’ll work with partners and communities to fund and roll them out, before approving them for funding.

We know accountability is critical, so we actively monitor risks across our operations using the latest climate change data and emerging technologies. And as things change, we proactively adapt our processes to make sure our sites are managed responsibly and safely for our people, surrounding communities, and the environments we work in, now and in the future.

Physical resilience to climate change

How physical climate risk impacts us

Depending on the geographic context, community, asset and operation, the existing infrastructure, design and/or operational procedures, climate risk can impact us in different ways.

  • Climate hazards that impact us
  • Physical climate risks
  • Climate risk modelling
Climate hazard table

Potential impacts


  • Tailings storage facility failure due to instability and erosion
  • Underground/surface pit flooding
  • Equipment failure/damage from water exposure

Water stress/drought

  • Tailings storage facility failure due to instability and erosion
  • Underground/surface pit flooding
  • Equipment failure/damage from water exposure

Heat extremes

Increased workforce health and safety risk and reduced productivity

  • Equipment inefficiency or failure - electrical/power outages
  • Operational disruptions from rail buckling


  • Safety risk to workforce and communities
  • Damage to mining infrastructure/equipment
  • Operational and supply chain disruption

Tropical cyclones

  • Safety risk to workforce and communities
  • Wind and flood damage to infrastructure and equipment

Coastal extreme/inundation

  • Coastal infrastructure inundation and damage
  • Operational and supply chain disruption
  • Increase flood risk for coastal operations and communities

Physical climate risks

Across our entire business, we’ve identified 8 major physical climate risks, which take into account our people, the communities that host us, our operations, the environments that we work in, and our supply chain. This helps us coordinate our approach so we can continue to operate safely, profitably, and productively in a rapidly changing climate.

 Risk and impact
Climate hazard driving risk   
 Risk management
Tailings storage facility (TSF) containment breach/failure due to geotechnical instability or significant erosion event Extreme rainfall, flooding Our facilities comply with local laws and regulations and have risk management protocols in place, including a Group safety standard for tailings and water storage facilities. We regularly update this standard and undergo internal and external assurance checks. Our operational TSFs have, or are developing, tailings response plans and follow strict business resilience and communications protocols. In accordance with the relevant climate change requirements from the GISTM, all TSFs will conduct a climate change resilience assessment by August 2025.
Water shortages, supply and availability impacting operations and production, water treatment and environmental compliance, dust control and community relations Rainfall, temperature We use a water risk framework to identify, assess and manage water risks across our portfolio of managed operations. The framework covers 4 themes, one of which relates to water supply (water resource). The supply theme requires us to consider whether sufficient water is available to supply both our operational demands and the demands of other stakeholders within the broader catchment, under the range of conditions that are likely to occur over the asset's life. We apply rigorous standards and processes to ensure effective controls are in place at all sites. This includes our Group water quality protection and water management standard, and a standardised Group water management control library which describes all controls identified to manage our water risks. Asset-specific climate change risk and resilience assessments further enable continued improvement of water risk management over time.
Damage to critical coastal infrastructure (shipping berths, ship loaders, stackers/reclaimers, conveyors) resulting in operational and supply chain disruption Tropical cyclone/storm, wind, storm surge Our coastal infrastructure is designed to withstand the wind loading and other impacts associated with extreme events, including severe tropical cyclones. Established business resilience management plans offer frameworks for response, continuity, and recovery in the event of a natural catastrophe scenario, aiming to minimise damage and resume operations swiftly. Our engineering risk assessment program, including asset-level critical risk assessments, considers natural catastrophe modelling and associated risks, if appropriate.
Damage and outages of critical electrical (motors, generators, cooling systems) and power (substations, transformers, transmission lines) infrastructure Tropical cyclone/storm, extreme rainfall, flooding, extreme temperatures, lightning Electrical and power infrastructure is designed in accordance with local engineering and design standards and internal electrical safety standards and is considered in our asset-specific climate change risk and resilience assessments. Flood risk modelling (surface water, riverine and coastal inundation) incorporating future climate change projections has been completed across our portfolio of managed and non-managed operations.  
Damage to critical mining and production infrastructure (eg fixed plant, conveyors) resulting in operational disruption Tropical cyclone/storm, extreme rainfall and/or flooding Critical mining and production infrastructure is designed in accordance with local engineering and design standards and are considered in our asset-specific climate change risk and resilience assessments. Assets located in tropical cyclone-affected regions have appropriate controls to minimise damage and operational downtime. Flood risk modelling (surface water, riverine and coastal inundation) incorporating future climate change projections has been completed across our portfolio of managed and non-managed operations.  
Health and safety and productivity of workforce Extreme heat  Controls are in place to manage the risk of extreme heat for our workforce, including adequate acclimatisation prior to commencing work. Those undertaking high-risk heat tasks are monitored daily for signs or symptoms of heat illness/stress. Operator checklists ensure adequate hydration and work area management. Provision is made for cool rest areas with access to cool drinking water. Our workforce is able to self-pace their workload ensuring regular work/rest breaks.  
Disruption to transport routes (maritime, rail, air and road access) and supply chain (supplies and critical spares and access to direct customers) Tropical cyclone/storm, extreme heat, extreme rainfall, flooding We are working to better understand the interdependencies across our entire operation. In 2023, we operationalised analytics that provides real-time natural hazard impacts for over 50% of our tier 1-3 goods suppliers. Being alerted of potential supply disruption in real-time allows our teams to make informed decisions to reduce supply chain disruption. This work aims to identify critical components of our product group supply chains and manage the potential adverse impacts from physical climate risk.  
Acute and chronic climate change impacting closure objectives Tropical cyclones/storms, temperature, rainfall, flooding, sea level rise The physical impacts of climate change are considered when planning and executing closure. Latest-generation climate change projections specific to the site are used to inform appropriate landform design, water management and vegetation selection. This is to support modelling as per local regulatory requirements and internal closure standards. Ongoing and regular monitoring and maintenance of the site is essential to ensure the effectiveness of closure measures, including monitoring water quality, soil erosion, vegetation growth and any potential contamination or instability issues.  


Climate risk modelling

Our physical climate risk classification is based on modelled property damage loss estimates across our assets and considers present-day and 3 future time horizons (2030, 2040 and 2050). We consider 8 climate hazards, including flooding (riverine and surface water), coastal inundation, including sea level rise, extreme heat, cyclonic wind, extreme wind, forest fire, and freeze-thaw.   

Our modelling considers 2 future emissions scenarios – Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs) – from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), including:  

  • Intermediate greenhouse gas emission scenario (RCP4.5) – Relative to the 1986-2005 period, global mean surface temperature changes are likely to be 1.1-2.6°C by 2100.   
  • High greenhouse gas emission scenario (RCP8.5) – Relative to the 1986-2005 period, global mean surface temperature changes are likely to be 2.6-4.8°C by 2100.   

We’ve categorised risk based on Annualised Damage (AD), which represents the expected average annual damage to an asset attributable to climate-related hazards relative to a fixed value (e.g. $1 million). As such, an AD of 0.5% would mean that for every $1 million of exposure, $5,000 could be damaged, on average, in any given year.   

Risk categorisation is based on the AD values, with thresholds set at <0.2% for low risk, 0.2-1% for medium risk, and >1% for high risk.    

Read more on the methodology in our Annual Report.

Climate risk modelling
Annualised damage risk – Group and regional

Our progress

To date, we have: 

  • made progress in quantifying, managing and adapting to our physical climate risks
  • advanced asset-level resilience assessments across our Canadian sites, including Saguenay, BC Works, and the Iron Ore Company of Canada (IOC), our Simandou Iron Ore Project in Guinea, and across the Pilbara, Weipa, Yarwun and Winu in Australia
  • completed Climate Change Risk Assessments across 14 very high and extreme tailings storage facilities across the Group, with the rest to be completed by August 2025
  • progressed climate physical risk modelling across the Group, including flood risk screening for all of our managed and non-managed assets
  • developed new technical guidance, including a climate change resilience assessment process specific to tailings storage facilities as a signatory to the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management, and a new leading practice guideline on considering climate change in mine water management
  • operationalised analytics to provide real-time natural hazard impacts on 50% of our tier 1–3 goods suppliers. 

Adapting to the Pilbara’s changing climate

The Pilbara region in Western Australia is a land of extremes. From scorching temperatures and arid landscapes to tropical cyclones and flash floods, weather events in the Pilbara can be extremely disruptive to our operations, infrastructure, workforce and communities, supply chains and customers.

If an extreme weather event happens, tried and tested business resilience management plans help us make fast decisions about how to respond, recover and keep our operations running safely. We currently plan for up to 8 weather interruption days every year, but every year is different. And due to climate change, the nature of extreme weather events is changing, creating more year-to-year variability. So to adapt, we need to understand our risk exposure.

In 2022, we assessed our Pilbara operations’ physical resilience to climate change. The greatest risks we face come from tropical cyclones, including extreme wind and rainfall, flooding and storm surge. And while we expect fewer cyclones in the future, their intensity is likely to increase. Rising sea levels and more intense rainfall are also likely to trigger more flooding, which could affect our assets, communities and the environment.

Another significant risk is extreme heat, which is a major concern for employee health and wellbeing, and the reliability of our electricity grids and power sources. Our Gudai-Darri operation in the Pilbara currently experiences around 40 days per year where maximum air temperatures exceed 40°C. But by 2050, this may double to around 80 days per year (assuming an SSP5-8.5 emission scenario) with even hotter peak temperatures.

We’ve already started closing any gaps identified in the 2022 review and are now working on further analysis to make sure we’re prepared for any future scenarios.

Pilbara plant

Artificial intelligence predicts Madagascar’s rainfall

At QIT Madagascar Minerals (QMM), near Fort Dauphin in the Anosy region of south-eastern Madagascar, we produce ilmenite – a major source of titanium dioxide, mostly used as a white pigment in products such as paints and paper.

Water is a vital, shared resource that’s integral to the lives and livelihoods of QMM’s surrounding communities, and to the region’s long-term environmental stability. So we take our responsibility to manage water at our QMM operation very seriously – but Madagascar’s erratic rainfall patterns make water management at QMM complex.

So in 2023, we used artificial intelligence (AI) to create a tool that can generate rainfall outlooks up to 6 months in advance. We can track a series of climate influences that drive rainfall variability across Southern Madagascar and predict expected monthly rainfall totals and how they compare with historical rainfall at the site.

We use data to help make decisions under uncertainty. Our new AI tool, combined with short-term forecasts and other seasonal data, gives us a much more robust set of tools to plan for and manage our operations during Madagascar’s temperamental wet season.


Changing our mindset for changing snow melts

Every year is different, but for hydrologists and water managers, climate change is making managing water more complex and unpredictable. That's the challenge faced by our water resources team in Canada's Saguenay-Lac Saint-Jean region. We manage a 73 000km2 watershed, including 3 reservoirs and 6 hydropower plants, which supply electricity to the region’s aluminium smelters.

For years, we’ve relied on traditional methods and historical observations to produce our water forecasts. But with the climate changing, we know relying solely on the past isn’t enough. So, we developed a new method for water forecasting, which helps us account for this uncertainty.

By analysing many different weather and water variables, we learned that winters are shorter with less snow, spring snowmelt is starting earlier, and there’s less water available in summer. In a region where snow is crucial to water supply, we know we need to rethink how we manage our water.

So now, we pay attention to climate change signals as part of our day-to-day activities. We use management tools designed to help us make fast, informed decisions and plan for the long term. But adapting isn’t just about tools – it’s about mindset. We’re now thinking about water management in a different way and are more prepared to face the challenges of climate change.

Hydropower facility

Climate data: an opportunity not to be wasted

Storage sites for mining waste (tailings storage facilities) need to stay safe, now and in the future. So when we design them, the best way to keep them stable is to design a landform that sustains itself with minimal maintenance. Climate data is a key consideration when designing important features like drains, spillways, and slopes for tailings storage facilities so that they can withstand whatever the climate throws at them.

That’s why we developed the Climate Change Resilience Assessment Methodology (CCRA). We use the CCRA to understand how climate change might impact our tailings storage facilities. Using a risk-based approach, supported by climate change projections, we develop site-specific solutions.  

The CCRA involves:

  • assessing each key feature, like drains and slopes
  • comparing the design to what the future might hold based on climate change projections
  • identifying the risks and their consequences
  • if a key feature is vulnerable, creating a plan to further assess and mitigate the risks.

So far, the CCRA has been a success story for several of our closed sites, including Holden in the US, Segoussac in France and Gove in Australia. We’ll continue to roll out this approach for other tailings storage facilities and update it as new climate data becomes available. 


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