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.
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.
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.
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."
Jamela King is a Karajarri woman from the Kimberley region of Western Australia, and is part of the team working on ourin Australia.
“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.
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.