Native plants within the trial landform rehabilitation program at Ranger Mine

Closure

Through safe and responsible asset closure, we are working to deliver shared benefits for host communities, employees and investors; positive ESG outcomes; and innovative solutions that minimise long-term liabilities.

We do this in partnership with our stakeholders, embedding closure considerations throughout the lifespan of our assets – in the way we design, build, run, close and transition them.

As temporary stewards of the land where we operate, we partner with our stakeholders to develop a shared vision for the future of the lands and host communities. Balancing environmental, financial and social considerations, we look for opportunities associated with progressive closure, remediation and repurposing, and, where appropriate, long-term monitoring and maintenance.

At the end of 2023, closure provisions on our balance sheet totalled $17.2 billion (2022: $15.8 billion).

A start-up to support habitat restoration

Restoring legacy and former mine sites is a complex, industry-wide challenge – one that we need to get right.

We are partnering with RESOLVE, a non-profit organisation, to launch Regeneration, a start-up that will use the re-mining and processing of waste from legacy mine sites to support rehabilitation activities and restore natural environments.

Regeneration will extract valuable minerals and metals from mine tailings, waste rock and water. Earnings from the sale of these responsibly-sourced materials will be reinvested to help fund habitat restoration and closure activities, including at legacy and previously abandoned mine sites. Regeneration will also seek to create and trade biodiversity and carbon credits through the rehabilitation of land and the generation of environmental offsets.

We will invest $2 million in Regeneration and will work with the team to identify potential opportunities for the first Regeneration project.

Partnering with RESOLVE
  • Argyle Diamond Mine
  • Gove refinery and residue disposal areas
  • Ranger uranium mine
  • Legacy assets

Argyle diamond mine

We continue to rehabilitate the Argyle diamond mine on Miriwoong and Gija country in Western Australia. In 2023, we completed removal of the processing plant above ground infrastructure, continued reprofiling of the alluvial mining and waste rock landforms and capping of the tailings storage facility. We have reviewed our contracting strategy to increase work awarded to Traditional Owner businesses, increasing our spend to A$33 million in 2023 (2022: A$21 million). We are engaging with Traditional Owners on how to best support and expand meaningful participation as we progress closure activities.

Gove refinery and residue disposal areas

In 2023, we began the largest demolition project in the Southern Hemisphere at the Gove refinery in the Northern Territory, Australia. While water treatment and capping of the residue disposal areas continues, we are working closely with Gumatj and Rirratjingu Traditional Owners, and the Northern Territory Government, to plan for the future of the region beyond mining. In 2023, we spent A$94 million with Traditional Owner businesses, a decrease on the previous year due to lower global fuel prices (2022: A$101 million).

Ranger uranium mine

Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) is rehabilitating the Ranger uranium mine in the Northern Territory, Australia. We are committed to the successful rehabilitation of the Ranger Project Area to a standard that will establish an environment similar to the adjacent Kakadu National Park, a World Heritage site. We acknowledge the Traditional Owners’, the Mirarr people, consistent opposition to developing the Jabiluka uranium deposit and restate our full support for ERA’s commitment that the deposit would never be developed without the Mirarr People’s consent. Our utmost priority and commitment is to the rehabilitation of the Ranger Project Area in a way that is consistent with the wishes of the Mirarr people.

On 4 April 2023, we announced our support for ERA’s Interim Entitlement Offer (IEO), which raised approximately A$369 million to address funding requirements for the Ranger Rehabilitation Project to the end of the second quarter of 2024. Rio Tinto, which owns 86.3% of ERA's shares, subscribed for its full entitlements under the terms of the IEO, at a cost of A$319 million.

In October 2023, ERA announced that the findings of a 2022 Feasibility Study were under review. The study was undertaken on a lower technical risk rehabilitation methodology and to further refine the Ranger Project Area rehabilitation execution scope, risks, cost and schedule . In December 2023, ERA announced that they expected rehabilitation costs to materially exceed the previously estimated range and expected to increase their closure provision to approximately A$2.3 billion.

Rio Tinto continues to provide project support, including organisational and technical support, as requested by ERA. For more information, please visit ERA’s website.

Legacy assets

We manage over 90 legacy assets in 9 countries and 28 tailings storage facilities.

In 2023, we donated over 28 acres of land to the Southwestern Oregon Community College in Brookings, Oregon to support the expansion of their Curry Campus. The donation triples the size of the Curry Campus providing additional education opportunities in the region.

In France we opened an eco-park in partnership with the French Ministry of ecological transition at Le Thoronet, a former bauxite mine. The park features hiking trails and diverse habitat areas to support local wildlife.

We completed relinquishments at Lochacker Schreiber, a former landfill in Switzerland returning the land to local government for future use, long-term management and monitoring.

At Kelian, a former gold mine in Indonesia we have entered into a post-mining agreement with the province of East Kalimantan, under the supervision of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry to support the long-term management of the site. We have completed the restoration of the environment in the protected forest, which contains a rhinoceros sanctuary.

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View our interactive map of our tailings facilities

We’ve disclosed detailed information on 14 of our global tailings facilities in line with the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management

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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

Strengthening our approach

We completed 8 additional asset closure strategies in 2023, now in place for 59% of our active operations.

These strategies create a progressive vision for future land use after our operations cease and focus on opportunities to reduce closure costs and risks over the asset lifecycle. All of our operating sites have closure plans. We review these plans regularly to align with stakeholder expectations and to incorporate lessons learned from other closure projects. At operations with joint ownership structures, we work in partnership with other asset owners to ensure closure is considered throughout asset design, planning and operations.

Working in partnership

Successful closure needs to align with the expectations of host communities and governments. We are developing new approaches to engagement, such as co-creation of the future use and landform, co-execution and co-governance. To achieve this, we are working with host communities, including Indigenous partners, on rehabilitation, revegetation and long-term monitoring at many sites.

We look for opportunities across our portfolio to contribute to decarbonisation efforts for the communities where we operate. For example, at our Gove bauxite operations, we are working to introduce solar power into the grid to support sustainable power for the region beyond mining.

We partner with universities, governments and other organisations to find opportunities to repurpose and reprocess mineral and industrial waste, improve treatment and valorisation of mining-influenced waters, and explore the social aspects of mine closure. For example:

  • We joined the Mining Microbiome Analytics Platform project to identify microbes that could help the industry mine and remediate sites more sustainably.
  • Through our joint venture partnership with Regeneration Enterprises, we developed partnership strategies on re-mining and remediation of 2 legacy assets. We have engaged key technology, research and development, and ecological partners in our closure work.
  • We joined the National Alliance for Water Innovation, a public-private partnership that brings together a team of industry and academic partners. The team examines the critical technical barriers and research needed to radically lower the cost and energy of desalination to secure an affordable, energy-efficient and resilient water supply for the US economy.
  • We continued engagement in partnership with the Gove Peninsula Futures Reference Group (GPRFG) to plan for a sustainable future for Nhulunbuy and the Gove Peninsula post-mining for the benefit of Yolngu land owners, local communities and businesses. Members include the Gumatj and Rirratjingu Traditional Owners, the Northern Land Council, the Northern Territory Government, Australian Government and Rio Tinto. Learn how the GPRFG is supporting a positive transition on their website govefutures.nt.gov.au.
Becka is a subject matter expert on all things Closure. She helps us navigate all the challenges we face at a site when mining stops, so we can deliver the best possible outcomes for the environments we work in, and our host communities.

What are legacy sites?

We manage a number of historic sites – known as legacy sites – some we did not operate but acquired through corporate acquisitions after they were closed. Where required, we rehabilitate these sites and, where and when we can, transfer them to local authorities or third parties for future land use.

Two Sumatran rhinos

Turning an old gold mine into a rhino sanctuary

In 2017, our historic gold mine in Indonesia, Kelian, was assessed by the government and the World Wildlife Fund as an ideal location for the highly endangered Sumatran rhino. Part of the site has now been designated a Protection Forest and will be used as a sanctuary for housing and breeding rhino, with the aim of eventually releasing them into the wild.

More

Our Kelian team rehabilitated the 6,670-hectare gold mine site, including remediating waste dumps and building dams to protect ground and surface water from mine tailings, and converting areas that lay beneath the processing plant into a wetland.


It’s hoped the sanctuary could provide the lifeline that Kalimantan’s remaining Sumatran rhinos need to begin their recovery – and is just one example of the contribution that thoughtful closure of former mine sites can make.

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Leadership in sustainable mine closure

A new program aims to get everyone thinking about the end from day one

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