Waterslide in the Pilbara

Communities

We plan our business for the long term and seek to play a positive role in the communities where we operate, as well as in wider society. We engage with communities in a manner that is inclusive and respects their dignity, rights, culture and way of life.

We are proud to be one of the first mining companies in Australia to welcome native title to land and commit to forming agreements with Indigenous landowners. We did this because we knew it was the right thing to do, and that it would also strengthen our business. More than two decades on, agreements have become central to the way we work in partnership with communities and land-connected people across the globe. Most recently, in 2019, we signed a historic agreement in Quebec with the Innu community of Ekuanitshit to generate economic development opportunities associated with our operation in Havre-St-Pierre.

Over the years, we have looked for ways to strengthen the way we work with communities, so that the work we do benefits our local partners as much as it benefits our customers and shareholders. Today, our community teams – everyone from archaeologists and economic development experts to human rights specialists – work in partnership with our communities to understand how our work affects their lives. Our goal is to maximise benefits through social and economic development – and minimise potential issues, like noise and dust. 

Smiling woman and child at Pilbara oval

Our vision is to strengthen communities so they can drive their own development. We do this in many ways. Through our local procurement targets, we help create jobs for local residents and more opportunities for local businesses – including the opportunity to supply goods and services to with us. Most of our sites have a firm local employment target as well as policies in place to promote local procurement. For example, at the Oyu Tolgoi mine in Mongolia, about 93% of our employees are Mongolian, and between 2010 and 2019, we spent more than $3 billion nationally with Mongolian suppliers.

We work with local and national governments to contribute to and help build strong, diverse local economies. For example, in Western Australia, home to our Iron Ore business, we partnered with the Regional Chambers of Commerce & Industry Western Australia to help develop and deliver a programme that helps build the capabilities of local businesses in areas like safety, marketing and tender writing. And in Canada, we worked with industry and government to create the Centre of Excellence in Energy Efficiency, to help entrepreneurs commercialise technological innovations in energy efficiency and renewable energy. The Centre has helped contribute to the creation of a new economy in Quebec.

We also work closely with Indigenous and land-connected people to understand their physical, spiritual and cultural connection with the local environment. We seek their active engagement in monitoring and managing cultural heritage impacts. For example, in the Pilbara, in Western Australia, we have worked with local Indigenous groups to help record more than 32,000 rock art motifs – some of which are up to 40,000 years old – as part of our two conservation agreement projects. 

2019 Performance

  • Year in Review
  • Year in Numbers

Investing in Host Communities

Our impact on communities extends beyond our operational sites. For example, we work with suppliers in more than 120 locations, supporting the employment of many thousands. In 2019, we spent $17.1 billion with our suppliers; in Mongolia we spent more than $366 million with local suppliers. In Western Australia, we awarded our 400th scope of work through our local procurement portal, and in 2019, partnered with over 1900 Western Australian businesses – including Pilbara Aboriginal businesses.

As we continue to automate our operations, we have scaled up our investment in education partnerships that help develop skills for the future. In 2019, for example, we announced a A$10 million, four-year partnership focusing on skills for the digital future, with leaders in Australia’s education and innovation sectors, including leading start-up accelerator BlueChilli and Amazon Web Services.

We also recognise that we have a role to play promoting and supporting regional economic development. This requires dialogue and coordination with other stakeholders, including governments, international organisations, civil society, communities and other businesses. In Madagascar, for example, our QMM team funds business skills training to support local agricultural cooperatives. In Quebec, Canada, we support local projects and businesses, including the creation of the “Centre en entrepreneuriat multi-ressources”. Established in 2019, the centre supports entrepreneurs in the natural resources sector, helping them to run more efficient, sustainable and profitable businesses. We are also looking at ways to deploy financial tools, including social impact investments, and to amplify the impact of our own community investments.

In 2019, we made more than $36 million in community investments, and more than $13 million in development contributions, both spanning the areas of health, education, local business development, vocational skills training, environment, culture, community infrastructure and services1.

Supporting Indigenous Communities

Many of our operations neighbour Indigenous peoples’ lands and communities; we have a long history of respecting and supporting their rights. In 2019, we supported the Uluru Statement from the Heart, which seeks to enshrine an Indigenous voice in the Australian constitution. We won the “Best Company Indigenous Procurement Initiative Award” at the Queensland Resources Council Indigenous Awards in recognition of our work at our Amrun bauxite mine. In Quebec, we signed a partnership agreement with the Innu community of Ekuanitshit, which will contribute both to the prosperity of the community and the future of our mine in Havre-St-Pierre by supporting education and jobs, economic development, the environment and Innu culture. We also made significant progress towards other agreements with Indigenous peoples elsewhere in Canada, Australia and the US.

When we work with land-connected groups, we want to understand their physical, spiritual and cultural connection with the local environment. As such, we seek their active engagement in monitoring and managing cultural heritage impacts. For example, at our Cape Lambert operation in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, our turtle monitoring programme, a partnership with the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, has been expanded to become a collaboration between operational teams, local communities, regulators and the Ngarluma Aboriginal Corporation. This proactive management was acknowledged with an Excellence in Environmental Management award at the 2019 Australian Mining Prospect Awards.

In Canada, we announced our commitment to become a founding partner of the Centre of Excellence for Indigenous Minerals Development, which supports Indigenous communities to understand how they can engage with and participate in minerals development. We are contributing funding and technical expertise to enable the Centre of Excellence to expand its focus from Ontario across North America by developing networks in British Columbia, Quebec and Arizona.

Social Performance

In 2019, all assets completed new communities action plans based on internal assessments of ways to improve our relationship and benefits we provide the communities that host our businesses, as well as minimise any impacts. We also completed reviews of our community targets and are, for the first time, disclosing asset by asset progress of economic benefit targets.

Expertise in understanding, preventing and managing impacts on local communities is a key component of our approach to strengthening our social performance. In 2019, we worked with our operational leaders and communities and social practitioners, to understand our expertise and capabilities, as well as enhance our development programmes. We introduced technical training on grievance mechanisms, community impact investment and social risk analysis. We also improved our ability to collect and analyse data relevant to communities, which in turn provides both communities and our management with more meaningful information to inform our decision-making.

Our 2019 Performance Against Targets2

  • 90% of assets are on track to achieve their 2020 significant complaints target
  • 80% of assets are on track to achieve their 2020 repeat complaints target
  • 70% of assets are on track to achieve their 2020 local employment target
  • 84% of assets are on track to achieve their 2020 local procurement target

Managing Incidents and Complaints

In December 2019, operations at Richards Bay Minerals (RBM), our titanium dioxide asset in South Africa, were suspended for a short period following an escalation in violence in the communities surrounding our facilities. We are working hard at RBM to maintain strong relationships with key communities around our operations to support our business strategy, operational stability and growth. We are also working in partnership with governments at all levels in South Africa.

We are part of the Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinée (CBG) joint venture, in Guinea, an operation that mines and exports bauxite. In 2019, local communities neighbouring the expansion of the mine filed a complaint with the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman of the International Finance Corporation, an often-used mechanism to resolve disputes. These communities raised concerns related to resettlement compensation, environmental impact, informed consultation and the effectiveness of the CBG’s grievance mechanism on site. With our voice on the CBG Board, we are supporting a mediated solution.

Seventy years ago, we built a reservoir to power our aluminium smelter in Kitimat, British Columbia. In 2011, the Saik’uz and Stellat’en First Nations groups filed a lawsuit against Rio Tinto relating to the impact of this reservoir. In 2019, this suit proceeded to the British Columbia Supreme Court; we expect it to be adjudicated in the second half of 2020. We have a respectful relationship with many other communities living in the reservoir watershed, and just this year signed an agreement with the Cheslatta Carrier Nation, another First Nation group in the same region. We remain hopeful that we can find common ground with the Saik’uz and Stellat’en First Nations groups.

1Community Investments are voluntary financial commitments, including in-kind donations of assets and employee time, made by Rio Tinto to third parties to address identified community needs or social risks. In 2019, we adopted new definitions and data collection processes for reporting discretionary community investments, non-discretionary development contributions, management costs and payments to landowners to align with GRI Reporting Standards. As a result of these changes, 2019 data is not comparable with previous years.

2‘On track’ means 75% or greater progress towards 2020 targets. A complaint is a communication that a community member has suffered some form of offence or detrimental impact from our business. It is significant if the actual consequence is major or catastrophic or potential consequence is high. It is a repeat complaint if someone else complains about the same underlying issue or the same person complains again.

CSP Local Employment and Procurement Targets 2019

Community Contributions

Community Contributions by Programme Type

Community Contributions by Region

$45.1B

Direct Economic Contribution Globally

$7.5B

Taxes & Royalties Paid Globally

$13M

Paid in Development Contributions

$36M

in Community Investments

$147M

Payments to Land Owners

2019 figures. Community Investments are voluntary financial commitments, including in-kind donations of assets and employee time, made by Rio Tinto to third parties to address identified community needs or social risks. Development Contributions are defined as non-discretionary financial commitments, including in-kind donations of assets and employee time, made by Rio Tinto to a third party to deliver social, economic and/or environmental benefits for a community, which Rio Tinto is mandated to make under a legally binding agreement, by a regulatory authority or otherwise by law. Payment to Landowners are non-discretionary compensation payments made by Rio Tinto to third parties under land access, mine development, native title, impact benefit and other legally binding compensation agreements.

Kulbardi, an Indigenous-owned local supplier in Western Australia

Supporting local Aboriginal businesses in the Pilbara

In 2019 we awarded more than A$60 million of work to Aboriginal businesses in the Pilbara, in Australia, as part of the development of our Koodaideri iron ore mine in Western Australia.

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White Springs, a business based in Western Australia and founded by Banjima and Nyiyaparli Traditional Owners, was awarded the most significant package of work to date: to supply more than 600,000 tonnes of ballast for the rail line for our Koodaideri mine, currently under construction. This contract will help establisthe Bea Bea Creek quarry – the first Indigenous owned and operated quarry in Western Australia.

Chris Salisbury, chief executive of our iron ore business, said: "We’ve been operating in the Pilbara for more than 50 years, and we couldn’t have built the world-class iron ore business we have today without the support of local and Pilbara Aboriginal businesses. We are proud to be partnering with them to help develop our most technologically advanced mine."

Working with Shared Purpose

Our communities and social performance (CSP) standard defines our approach for respectful and meaningful engagement with communities. It outlines the steps that must be taken to identify and manage social, economic, environmental, cultural and human rights impacts. It also outlines our approach for managing and responding to community concerns and complaints, as well as closing operational sites.

We seek to ensure our CSP approach aligns with international guidelines, such as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, the UN Global Compact, the ICMM Sustainability Framework and 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 as a reference.

Community Agreements

Our community agreements – encompassing commitments on land use, cultural heritage, environment, employment and procurement – are the basis of many of our relationships, and are an essential part of the planning, operation and closure of every project and operational site. In Australia, for example, our land access agreements allow us to compensate, via trust funds and other mechanisms, Traditional Owners for the operations and presence we have on traditional land. 

Jamela King, reconciliation champion

Jamela King

One of our Reconciliation champions

Jamela King is a Karajarri woman from the Kimberley region of Western Australia, and is part of the team working on our Reconciliation Action Plan in Australia.

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“I always like to think about the bigger picture. At uni, it was important to get out there and start meeting people so that when I graduated I had opportunities. I thought, just apply and see how it goes. Nothing to lose really. So I applied for the Rio Tinto Indigenous Cadetship Programme and I got it! It has been such an amazing experience that has led onto so many other opportunities. 

I have just finished my two year rotation as part of the graduate programme and now I work in Indigenous Affairs and Government Relations. I feel really fortunate. It is so rewarding partnering with so many organisations that are working to benefit Indigenous communities. The work I am focussing on now is on our Reconciliation Action Plan. I am really passionate about Indigenous issues and our community, so for me, it is really meaningful to work for a company that champions reconciliation, both internally and externally.”

Respecting Human Rights, Including Free, Prior and Informed Consent

Respect for human rights is the foundation for our approach to building positive and enduring relationships with the communities where we operate and we seek to prevent and manage potential and actual impacts in line with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Our CSP standard has a stand-alone human rights section guiding our communities’ practitioners and other staff on respecting the human rights of community members.

We strive to obtain the free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous peoples and other affected communities to access land and natural resources, in line with the International Finance Corporation Performance Standard 7 and the International Council on Mining and Metals position statement on Indigenous peoples and mining. We also seek to operate consistently with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. 

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 solve problems together and take remedial actions where needed. In fact, every site is required to have a complaints, disputes and grievances mechanism that operates in line with these criteria. 

Resettlement

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 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.