We know our operations can have far-reaching impacts on society. We want to contribute to a shared future and positive legacy by developing lasting relationships with people, learning about and supporting their goals and aspirations, avoiding or mitigating adverse impacts, and respecting different cultures and connections to lands and waters.
We are finding better ways to work with communities and Indigenous peoples, particularly in how we protect heritage. We are moving to a model of co-management of land and waters, and we are updating our agreements to deliver more enduring socioeconomic, heritage and environmental outcomes. This, in turn, delivers greater certainty for mine development.
Our ability to work together to deliver positive outcomes is increasingly important as society comes together to address global challenges like climate change. Our communities and social performance and site teams are starting to work with Indigenous communities to explore opportunities for them to participate in our climate initiatives.
Communities and Social Performance Commitments Disclosure Report
The destruction of the rock shelters at Juukan Gorge in May 2020 was a clear breach of our values and the trust placed in us by Indigenous peoples to respect the lands on which we operate. In the two years since, we have been changing the way we work in every part of our business.
We have been working hard to implement meaningful change in the way Indigenous cultural heritage within our operations is managed and protected.
In September 2022, we released our second Communities and Social Performance Commitments Disclosure Report. The report details progress made in areas such as partnering with Pilbara Traditional Owners in modernising and improving agreements; introducing a new Communities and Social Performance model across the company; improving our governance, planning and systems relating to communities; and increasing Indigenous leadership and developing cultural competency within Rio Tinto.
New communities and social performance targets
In 2022 we finalised a new suite of communities and social performance targets, following the end of our previous target reporting period (2016-2021). The new targets will help us monitor progress towards the core objectives of our communities and social performance Group strategy. We have transitioned from having individually set and defined local asset targets to common global targets, which will allow us to see progress across the Group as well as for individual assets. Our assets will continue to maintain local targets and metrics, developed in consultation with local communities, in addition to the global targets. Reporting will evolve over the next 12 months.
Communities and social performance targets 2022-2026
By 2026, all sites to co-manage cultural heritage with communities and knowledge holders.
Progress will be evaluated through a co-management maturity assessment currently in development for reporting from 2023.
Year-on-year increase in contestable spend sourced from suppliers local to our operations.
Baseline included in the 2022 Sustainability Fact Book for:
Progress against target reported annually from 2023.
By 2026, 70% of total community investment to be through strategic, outcomes focused partnerships.
Progressive reporting through roll-out of the social investment strategy and framework in 2023.
By 2024, 100% of employees in high human rights risk roles to complete yearly job-specific and general human rights training.
By 2026, 100% of employees to complete yearly general human rights training.
Progressive reporting with 2022 focus on training development and role mapping.
How we work with communities
Mining and processing, by its very nature, disturbs the environment and can impact surrounding communities. It also delivers significant economic and social benefits, including the production of essential materials, employment, small business development, tax and royalty streams, training and skills development, and socioeconomic programmes.
We recognise that while the benefits of our activities are widespread, many of the negative impacts are localised. Our teams work in partnership with communities to understand how our activities impact their lives, culture and heritage. Through meaningful engagement, we can respond to community concerns, mitigate negative impacts and optimise socioeconomic benefits.
Everywhere we work, through all stages of the life of our operations, we respect and support all internationally recognised human rights, in line with the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the United Nations Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights.
Our teams – everyone from archaeologists and economic development experts to human rights specialists and our operational leaders – work in partnership with our communities to understand how our work affects their lives, their culture and their heritage. By doing so, we can respond to community concerns and work to optimise benefits and reduce negative impacts, both for the local community and for the company.
Our communities and social performance standard defines the way we engage communities, and outlines the steps we take to identify and manage social, economic, environmental, cultural and human rights impacts throughout the life cycle of our projects, from exploration, to project development, to operation and closure. It also outlines our approach for managing and responding to community concerns and complaints, as well as closing operational sites.
We consult and engage with our communities regularly, in good faith, and in ways that are transparent, inclusive, and culturally appropriate. For example, we often have community information centres in local towns and villages and toll-free contact numbers community members can call with questions or complaints. We design our engagement so it is relevant and appropriate for the local context, in terms of method of communication and language.
We seek to ensure that our engagement practices respect human rights, that diverse voices are heard and that vulnerable and “at risk” groups can participate in engagement processes. As part of this engagement, we address community concerns, needs and priorities.
In addition, we only award work to contractors who are able to comply with and deliver our Group and site-specific communities and social performance requirements, as well as any local requirements. We also look for ways to increase our leverage to help our business partners respect human rights in line with international standards.
We measure, monitor and review our communities and social performance against targets, to help us continue improving. This includes reporting and communicating on how we are addressing human rights impacts, both positive and negative.
Engaging with communities on a low-carbon future
We believe we have an important role to play in ensuring that the green energy transition is progressed in a fair and socially inclusive way. This will be a key focus for our communities and social performance teams from 2022 and will include active community engagement, managing potential adverse social and human rights impacts and exploring and enabling ways for host communities to share in economic opportunities.
In 2021, our QIT Madagascar Minerals (QMM) and its partners laid the foundation stone for a new solar and wind energy plant. In addition to allowing our operations in Madagascar to be carbon neutral by 2023, the plant will replace the majority of the electricity supplied to Fort-Dauphin and its 80,000 community members with clean energy. QMM and its partners are working with local authorities to develop manufacturing capacity to produce equipment for the renewable industry locally.
Progress in 2022
Strengthening social performance
We continue to strengthen our social performance governance, capacity and capability. In 2022, we launched our revised Communities and Social Performance Standard. It applies to all managed operations globally and will help us work thoughtfully, responsibly and transparently. It provides clear direction on what success looks like and the minimum standard expected across our global operations.
In 2022, we also launched the 2022 to 2027 Group communities and social performance vision, goal and strategic framework, which will guide our activities over the next five years and help improve our performance. Our vision is to respect and enable communities to realise their goals and aspirations and create long-term shared benefits.
We continue to build internal capability and collaboration across our teams working in communities and social performance, Indigenous affairs and cultural heritage. In 2022, we held two global conferences in Brisbane and Montreal for more than 260 communities and social performance employees to explore complex technical issues and share good practice and learnings. These conferences also offered the opportunity to engage with civil society organisations, investors and academia on emerging communities and social performance trends and practice. As we evolve our approach to co-design and co-management, we continue to listen to the wealth of knowledge that resides both inside and outside our business.
We have changed the way we engage with Indigenous communities. We are progressively working more closely in partnership with Indigenous peoples across our operations to preserve and protect cultural heritage. We are moving to a model of co-management to ensure Indigenous voices are heard as part of our decision making.
Governance and process
During 2022, we continued to revise our standards, systems and processes to ensure we are working responsibly to avoid and minimise impacts and risks to our operations, people and communities.
Australian Advisory Group
We have established an Australian Advisory Group to provide guidance on current and emerging issues, and better manage policies and positions that are important to both Australian communities and our broader business. The group continues to refine its scope and procedures for providing high-quality advice to the Chief Executive Australia and the Executive Committee.
Our cultural heritage risks
We have now operationalised the set of controls that manage our cultural heritage risks, with an emphasis placed on understanding the control performance at a local level. Our global Communities and Social Performance Area of Expertise continues to provide subject matter advice and support to our assets to strengthen the risk assessment processes across our business.
Independent cultural heritage management audit
In 2020, we engaged Environmental Resources Management (ERM) to undertake an independent cultural heritage management audit across all our sites. Phase one of the audit was completed in mid-2022 and focused on 20 audits across our Australian assets.
Field work for phase two was completed in December 2022 and focused on 17 audits across our non-Australian operations. Phase one of the audit found that the changes introduced over the past two years have improved on-ground management. For example, a number of assets globally are progressing projects with community partners to document intangible cultural heritage values. This includes methodologies such as constellation mapping and training on new methods for recording oral histories. The report identified four areas for improvement: managing water as a cultural resource, managing artefacts, integrating data, and continuing to build our team of experienced cultural heritage practitioners.
A summary of audit findings from phase one and two will be released at the end of the first quarter in 2023. Based on the recommendations, we will then work on a response plan in consultation with our cultural heritage teams and cultural heritage knowledge and rights holders.
Leadership and inclusion
We are evolving our culture to encourage a mindset and behavioural shift at all levels of our organisation. We have a programme of work in progress that focuses on advancing respect for the peoples and cultures on whose land we live and work, which links closely to the work we are doing as part of the Everyday Respect initiative.
We continue to increase the number of Indigenous leaders in our business and develop our cultural competency. Reducing the barriers for Indigenous employees in our business and increasing cultural intelligence will help us become a better operator and a more inclusive workplace. In October 2022, we launched an internal protocol for the use of Indigenous cultural and intellectual property in Australia to ensure we follow appropriate processes when commissioning or reproducing Indigenous design or artwork within our business and engaging in Indigenous art and design projects. This will continue to be rolled out throughout 2023.
Truth and reconciliation in Canada
We continue to create learning opportunities for our people in Canada to raise awareness about the history, culture and rights of Indigenous peoples. During National Indigenous History Month, we held a series of events focusing specifically on Indigenous women. In September, we celebrated National Truth and Reconciliation Day and hosted a panel focusing on tangible ways to promote reconciliation and create a more inclusive and culturally safe work environment.
Addressing employment barriers in Canada
In addition to raising awareness, we have been focusing on identifying and addressing some of the recruitment opportunities and barriers for Indigenous peoples, and particularly Innu First Nations candidates. We prioritised eastern Canada in 2022 and took a number of actions. We established employment and training committees in partnership with Indigenous job placement agencies and we revised our recruitment process, including hiring criteria, pre-employment checks and verification processes. These changes resulted in 31 new Indigenous hires.
In 2021, our Iron Ore product group developed an Indigenous participation strategy to attract and develop Indigenous employees and promote a culturally safe working environment.
Throughout 2022, we continued to make significant progress. We have:
- Enhanced our recruitment processes
- Updated our employment programme to remove obstacles to employment and provide training and development opportunities for Indigenous peoples
- Delivered a training programme to increase the cultural knowledge of non-Indigenous employees
- Implemented an Indigenous participation dashboard to ensure leaders are enabled to make informed choices on improvement initiatives
- Enhanced our Indigenous Talent Review programme, which in 2022 saw 23 participants from a cohort of 151 promoted to roles of Supervisor or above
Operation and project updates
QIT Madagscar Minerals (QMM) Madagascar
In 2022, QMM worked together with national and local authorities, representatives of the communities and Traditional Owners to address complaints raised by members of the local communities through a grievance management process. Throughout the year, the parties continued to work together to find equitable and sustainable solutions and we will continue to work closely with the community on these issues in 2023. Despite the challenges at QMM, we are implementing initiatives to strengthen our collaboration with the community. One example is our village nursery project, which generates income for the community that is supporting the rehabilitation of the area surrounding the Mandena mine. In 2022, QMM invested over $550,000 to support rehabilitation activities, producing 300 tonnes of compost and providing 1,500,000 seedlings used for commercial tree planting, ecological restoration, greening of the area around Mandena and an offset plantation near the future mining lease in Ambatoatsinana. Community associations are the input suppliers, and some community members are also employed. More than 400 households have benefited from QMM’s rehabilitation activities. In addition, QMM will increase its spending on its Corporate Social Responsibility Policy over the next three years to implement development projects in full collaboration with the communities and for the benefit of all local community members.
Resolution Copper project, Arizona, US
At our Resolution Copper project in Arizona, we continue to strengthen relationships with local communities and Native American tribes by deepening our engagement and partnership support.
We recognise the enduring historical connection Native American tribes have with the land at, or near, the proposed mine and we have partnered with the Tonto National Forest Service and Native American tribes to develop a programme to train tribal members in archaeological surveys and to help us identify sites of special significance to tribes.
The project is going through comprehensive and independent social and environmental regulatory reviews. The US Forest Service (USFS) published the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) in January 2021. In March 2021, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) directed the USFS to retract the FEIS, which allowed the agency to undertake further review and consultation.
Simandou project, Guinea
At our Simandou iron ore project in Guinea, we are working with communities to help them prepare for construction and future operations by identifying and managing our impacts, and designing and delivering local social investment and regional economic development programmes. In addition to implementing environmental and social impact mitigation measures, our teams are working with local communities to enhance social infrastructure, deliver livelihood restoration initiatives and build community resilience.
Recognising the cumulative impacts that will occur as a result of the development of Simandou, we are also working with our infrastructure and joint venture partners to ensure the consistent application of internationally recognised environmental and social performance standards across the entire project footprint. We are also working towards raising local capacities to maximise local content.
Engaging with local entrepreneurs and investing in training and development of local capacities is key to optimise benefits to our host communities.
Oyu Tolgoi, Mongolia
In 2022, local employment at Oyu Tolgoi increased by 25% from January to September as a result of a comprehensive recruitment process and local talent development. Since 2015, Oyu Tolgoi has made a yearly contribution of $5 million to a Development Support Fund (DSF) – administered jointly by Oyu Tolgoi and the community – for community programmes and projects in the Umnugovi aimag. In 2022, after reaching $38.9 million, the fund invested in constructing a community school, a kindergarten, and a health care centre, increasing accessibility to quality educational and healthcare services for community members and creating more than 480 permanent jobs.
The DSF also funded the Gobi History and Nature Museum, which opened in May 2022.
It has already benefitted tourism in the region by attracting more than 28,000 people, and it is playing an important role in protecting and promoting Mongolian cultural heritage. We continue to engage with local communities through the Khanbogd Tripartite Council (TPC). In 2022, we focused on herder sustainable livelihood, student scholarships and pastureland water access.
Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinée SA (CBG), Guinea
CBG is a bauxite operation in Guinea owned by Halco Mining Inc. (51%) and the Guinean Government (49%). Halco is a consortium comprised of Rio Tinto (45%), Alcoa (45%) and Dadco Investments (10%). Rio Tinto participates on the boards of Halco and CBG, with representation on various shareholder oversight committees. Through our Board and committee roles, we monitor and support CBG’s approach to environmental protection, community issues and human rights. We are aware of the concerns regarding access to land and water, and the pace of livelihood restoration programmes as well as concerns regarding CBG’s stakeholder engagement.
In 2022, sustainability advisory committees at Halco and CBG levels met regularly, strengthening our oversight and providing support to CBG for the improvement of CBG’s social and environmental practices, including for the development of an ongoing human rights due diligence process. Both the Halco and CBG advisory committees are closely following CBG’s response to a complaint made to the International Finance Corporation’s (IFC) Office of the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO).
The mediation process facilitated by the CAO has conducted seven sessions in 2022 and through a collaborative approach the parties made important progress towards an agreement on the improvement of community access to water. Halco continues to participate in the mediation process as an observer, alongside the IFC.
Panguna mine, Bougainville, Papua New Guinea
The Panguna mine was operated by Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL), majority-owned by Rio Tinto, for 17 years from 1972 until 1989, when operations were suspended due to a civil war, which lasted until 1998. In 2016, Rio Tinto transferred its 53.83% majority shareholding in BCL to the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) and the Papua New Guinea (PNG) Government for no consideration, enabling the ABG and PNG to hold an equal share in BCL of 36.4% each.
In September 2020, the Human Rights Law Centre (HRLC) filed a complaint against Rio Tinto on behalf of 156 Bougainville residents with the Australian National Contact Point (AusNCP) regarding the Panguna site.
In 2021, as an outcome of the AusNCP engagement, a joint committee of stakeholders, the Panguna Mine Legacy Impact Assessment Committee, was formed to oversee a detailed independent assessment of the Panguna mine to identify and better understand the environmental and human rights impacts of the mine. The Committee is chaired by an independent facilitator with representatives from the ABG, the Independent State of PNG, clan leaders and landowners, local communities, Rio Tinto, BCL and HRLC. It has met regularly since its formation.
In 2021, the Committee commissioned the Panguna Mine Preparatory Phase Report to inform priority areas for the Impact Assessment. Completed in 2022, the report identified risks of potential failure of the levee at the former Main/Pump station, and potential flooding events along the Kawerong and Jaba river. On behalf of the ABG, Tetra Tech Coffey completed on-the-ground investigations in October 2022 and will present findings to the ABG who will determine next steps.
In 2022, the Committee selected and endorsed Tetra Tech Coffey to complete phase 1 of the independent environmental, social and human rights Legacy Impact Assessment. The Legacy Impact Assessment began in December 2022 and will provide all parties with a clearer understanding of the impacts, so that together we can consider the best way forward.
Jadar lithium-borates project, Serbia
We continue to believe that the Jadar lithium borates project in Serbia can contribute to enhancing the electric vehicle supply chain ecosystem in Serbia. We continue to explore options with all stakeholders on how to progress this world-class opportunity to the highest environmental standards.
Supporting economic opportunities for our host communities and regions is a key priority for us and we strive to employ local people, buy local products and engage local services. In 2022, our total voluntary global social investment was $62.6 million, covering a wide range of social and economic programmes. In 2022, we spent $2.7 billion with suppliers local to our operations, which is 14.5% of our total contestable spend.
$25 million to support communities during pandemic
In early 2020 as COVID-19 was starting to affect the world, we announced a pledge of US$25 million to assist the communities where we live and work in preparing for, living through, and recovering from the pandemic.
The pledge was over and above our committed voluntary social investment and the implementation of the fund was led by our operations and supporting grassroots communities across the globe. We set investment principles to prioritise value-in-kind investments, or specific grassroots community programmes linked to COVID-19 preparedness or mitigation including health and economic impacts.
“We were able to focus our efforts on countries that have a close connection to local communities,” says Hannah, Manager, Social Investment Australia.
In April 2021, all remaining funds were allocated to support communities that were suffering the most including Mongolia, Guinea, South Africa and Madagascar.
Hannah said that a $1 million donation to UNICEF was something that really stood out for her.
“UNICEF has played a crucial role during the COVID-19 pandemic through its role with COVAX, so being able to donate $1 million to turn COVID-19 vaccines into lifesaving vaccinations through vaccine delivery, technical expertise, cold chain strengthening, and immunisation logistics management was really important for us.”
We seek to operate in a manner consistent with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which recognises the right of Indigenous peoples to ‘maintain and strengthen their distinctive spiritual relationship with their traditionally owned or otherwise occupied and used lands, territories, waters and coastal seas and other resources’ (Article 25).
We strive to obtain the free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous peoples (as defined in the IFC Performance Standard 7 on “Indigenous Peoples”) in line with the International Council on Mining and Metals position statement on Indigenous peoples and mining.
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 work on issues together and take remedial actions where needed. Every site is required to have a complaints, disputes and grievances mechanism that operates in line with these criteria.
Guided by global standards
Our communities approach aligns with the ICMM Sustainability Framework, 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; our CSP standard commits us to compliance with the following IFC Performance Standards:
- IFC PS1: Assessment and Management of Environmental and Social Risks and Impacts
- IFC PS5: Land Acquisition and Involuntary Resettlement
We also support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
How we engage with our communities
When we engage with our communities, we aim to:
- Interact proactively, early and often
- Listen actively to community views
- Communicate openly about our company and proposals
- Provide adequate resources for engagement activities
- Invest in relationships for the long term
- Integrate engagement into the business plans of all functions and units
- Respect cultural protocols
- Hear the full range of views and interests, including minority and divergent views
Land acquisition and resettlement
Resettlement is a measure of last resort. 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 respect people’s land rights and 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.