Waterslide in the Pilbara


To us, communities aren’t just places. They are the people on whom our operations can have an impact, and with whom we strive to build long-term partnerships: Indigenous peoples, landowners, suppliers, neighbours and our colleagues.

Communities and Social Performance Commitments Disclosure Interim Report

We have been working hard to implement meaningful change in the way Indigenous cultural heritage within our operations is managed and protected.

In September 2021, we released our Communities and Social Performance Commitments Disclosure Interim 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.

How We Work with Communities

Mining by its very nature requires disturbance to the land and environment and can have impacts on surrounding communities. At the same time mining also delivers significant economic and social benefits to communities, including employment, small business development, tax and royalty streams and education and health programmes.

We try to prevent and minimise impact – social, environmental and health and safety – in part by conducting detailed assessments, in consultation with local communities, and by following robust internal standards and practices that are in line with – and often go beyond – domestic regulations.

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.

Our 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, 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 (CSP) 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 take local languages into account when developing materials, and regularly present to local councils. We also strive to ensure our engagement is participatory and representative of the community, including women, youth and vulnerable people.

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 CSP 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 CSP 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.

Economic and Social Development

We also work to maximise the benefits our company and its work delivers to the communities that host us. Our shared goals are to maximise benefits through social and economic development.

In addition to the taxes and royalties we pay, and the opportunities we provide, in 2020, we contributed to our communities in a variety of ways:

  • $165.9 million in payments to landowners, which are non-discretionary compensation payments made by our company under land access, mine development, native title, impact benefit and other legally binding compensation agreements
  • $47 million in community investments, which comprise voluntary financial commitments, including in-kind donations of assets and employee time to address identified community needs or social risks
  • $12.8 million in development contributions, defined as non-discretionary financial commitments, including in-kind donations of assets and employee time that aim to deliver social, economic and/or environmental benefits for a community, and which we are mandated to make under a legally binding agreement, by a regulatory authority or otherwise by law

In addition, through our local procurement targets, we help create jobs for local residents and new opportunities for local businesses – including the opportunity to supply us with goods and services. In 2020, we spent $15.5 billion with suppliers around the world.

Most of our sites also 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, between 2010 and the fourth quarter of 2020, we spent $3.54 billion on national procurement#. And as part of a dedicated national procurement policy – which aims to support a safe and sustainable local supply chain – OT has signed 30 contracts with Mongolia-based businesses since 2017. 

We also work to help communities build new skills and new businesses. In Western Australia, home to our iron ore business, we partnered with the government of Western Australia and South Metropolitan TAFE (a technical and further education institution) to develop the Certificate II in Autonomous Workplace Operations programme, the first nationally recognised automation qualification in Australia. This partnership, launched in 2019, aims to train and certify people in new skills that are transferable across industries, so they follow opportunities wherever they arise. In 2020, 28 high school students participated in the programme.

# Oyu Tolgoi's (OT) national procurement figure represents spend with suppliers registered in Mongolia and more than 50% owned by Mongolian citizens. It relates to the OT operations only, and does not include the underground project.

2020 Performance

  • Year in Review
  • Year in Numbers

Strengthening communities and social performance

To help transform our relationship with host communities around the world, including Traditional Owners in Australia, we have taken a number of actions:

We established a Communities and Social Performance (CSP) Area of Expertise (AoE), which will deliver a more rigorous assurance framework across our operations and elevate communities risk processes to align with our robust health and safety systems. The CSP AoE reports to our Group Executive, Safety, Technical and Projects, who is a member of our Executive Committee. While we already conduct social risk analyses at our sites – informed by day-to-day engagement with, and feedback from, communities as well as social and economic impact assessments – the CSP AOE will further strengthen this process.

We also changed the way we structure our CSP teams globally, so that product group and operational leaders have direct responsibility for managing relationships with their host communities, including Indigenous peoples.

We are currently rolling out the first phase of a new integrated heritage management process (IHMP), at our Pilbara iron ore operations and will subsequently implement the lessons across our business globally, taking into account local circumstances.

In the Pilbara, the IHMP involves a systematic review of all the heritage sites that we manage, starting with those that may be impacted by our activities over the next two years. So far, we have reviewed over 1,000 sites and ranked each one by: (i) cultural significance (which is informed through consultation with the Traditional Owners of the land on which we operate); (ii) our re-confirmation that we have recently consulted with Traditional Owners for potential impacts; and (iii) the materiality of the impact. Where there is any doubt, we have reclassified the relevant sites from ‘cleared’ for mining back to ‘protected’ as a precautionary measure, pending further consultation with the Traditional Owners.



We also progressed our partnerships with First Nations in Canada. In British Columbia, we signed a Relationship Agreement, called the 'New Day Agreement', with the Cheslatta Carrier Nation. The Agreement formalises commitments relating to training (including collaboration on the Cheslatta Nation remote industry training centre), land, employment and business opportunities and environmental stewardship of the Nechako Reservoir.

In Quebec, the Iron Ore Company of Canada signed a Reconciliation and Collaboration Agreement with the Uashat mak Mani-utenam and Matimekush-Lac John communities. We are also progressing a further four agreements with other First Nations communities in Quebec, Saskatchewan and British Columbia.

We conduct Social Impact Assessments (SIAs) – aligned with international standards, including the ICMM Mining Principles, International Finance Corporation Performance Standards and UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights – to help guide new projects as well as inform closure planning. This year, following the events at Juukan Gorge, we reviewed our social risk analyses across our managed assets to ensure we had a thorough understanding of our potential impacts at each, and that suitable mitigation measures were in place.

At our Jadar project in Serbia, we are currently undertaking an SIA as part of the feasibility study to complement the Environmental Impact Assessment and ensure that impacts are appropriately identified and managed. We anticipate this study will be completed by the end of 2021, and will be informed by detailed community consultation and participatory methods for identifying impacts and mitigation.

In 2021, we will also review our CSP standard - which governs how we identify and manage social, economic, environmental, cultural and human rights impacts from exploration to closure – and ensure that all operational leaders understand our commitments.

Our 2020 Performance Against Targets

  • 100% (21 out of 21 asset groupings#) have met or are ‘on track’(a) to achieve their 2021 significant complaints target*
  • 95% (20 out of 21 asset groupings#) have met or are ‘on track’(a) to achieve their 2021 repeat complaints target*
  • 71% (15 out of 21 asset groupings#) have met or are ‘on track’(b) to achieve their 2021 local employment target*
  • 81% (17 out of 21 asset groupings#) have met or are ‘on track’(b) to achieve their 2021 local procurement target*

# For the global Communities Targets, we report against asset groupings. This may encompass more than one asset or site, particularly when multiple assets or sites are associated with the same communities and/or share an internal Communities functional team. For example, our Australian iron ore assets are considered to be one asset grouping.

* Due to COVID-19-related disruptions, the global target requirements have been extended to 2021 and further input has been requested on this extension. The 2020 actual performance will be considered as an interim report with the final year of the target period concluding in 2021.

(a) “On track” means within one complaint of 2021 target and not on track is greater than one complaint off the 2021 target. A complaint is a communication indicating 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 the potential consequence is high. It is a repeat complaint if someone else complains about the same underlying issue, or the same person complains again.

(b) “On track” means 80% or greater progress towards 2021 targets.

Supporting communities through the pandemic 

During the COVID-19 global pandemic, we took active measures to reduce the risk of transmission from our employees and contractors to local communities. For example, at our Weipa bauxite operations in far north Queensland, Australia, we worked closely with the local disaster management group, including the town authority and medical department, to develop and implement specific plans in response to the federal government declaring biosecurity health zones. At the Diavik Diamond Mine in the Northwest Territories, Canada, where many of our employees come from vulnerable, remote communities, we introduced a range of measures to minimise the risk of transmission, including mandatory testing, calls with medical professionals prior to travel, enhanced hygiene and physical distancing measures, roster and flight changes, and the mandatory use of masks.

We have strict protocols in place guiding the way we engage with communities. This included building two community-related verification steps into our critical risk management system, requiring our teams to assess potential COVID-19 risks to the community and develop a plan to manage them. If, for whatever reason, physical interaction with any community may pose risks, we have asked our employees and partners to turn to non-physical ways to interact, or to cancel or postpone the engagement. Our employees and contractors cannot visit vulnerable communities – those in which underlying health challenges are prevalent, or those in remote areas where health care infrastructure is not strong – without the approval of appropriate community and Rio Tinto leadership.

During the pandemic, we proactively engaged with our Australian suppliers – many of whom are small businesses – and offered support, financial or otherwise, to those experiencing hardship.

We also committed $25 million to help communities during the pandemic. For example, to help support small businesses in financial stress in the Saguenay – Lac-Saint-Jean region of Quebec, Canada, we partnered with five municipal governments, the First Nation of Mashteuiatsh and financial services group Desjardins to create a regional stimulus fund, which provided financial support for health and safety, productivity and efficiency measures to make businesses more sustainable. The fund, which complemented existing local government initiatives, provided C$750,000 to more than 100 businesses.

Other forms of support we provided:

  • Donating A$1.25 million over five years to the Royal Flying Doctor Service in Australia (Queensland Section) to improve emergency and remotely delivered health care services across the state
  • Donating 25,000 masks and other equipment worth approximately C$100,000 to the local health authority and social services in Saguenay – Lac-Saint-Jean, in Quebec, Canada
  • In the Anosy region of Madagascar, upgrading a building and turning it into a dedicated treatment centre that can receive up to 108 patients, and treat 60 people – including up to 32 needing intensive care
  • Providing alternative housing support to a local shelter in Labrador, Canada, for women and children needing a secure refuge
  • Donating more than R6 million to provide critical support for local communities near Richards Bay Minerals, our operation in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, including food and water supplies, as well as PPE and essential equipment for frontline health workers and clinics
  • Donating €20,000 to the Red Cross in Belgrade, Serbia and €20,000 to the Red Cross in Loznica, Serbia, for essential food and hygiene items for the cities’ most vulnerable citizens
  • Partnering with the United Food and other partners to distribute more than 100,000 cans of drinking water and donate more than 280,000 meals to the communities near the Resolution Copper project in Arizona, US

Economic and social development

In 2020 our direct economic contribution was $47 billion, including the total value of operating costs, employee wages and benefits, payments to providers of capital, payments to government, development contributions, payments to landowners and community investments. Also in 2020, our total discretionary global community investments were $47 million, covering primarily health, education, environmental protection, housing, agricultural and business development sectors.

The economic and social development of communities continues to be a priority: we strive to employ local people, buy local products and engage local services, and we have targets reflecting this at each of our operations.

In Mongolia, for example, between 2010 and the fourth quarter of 2020, Oyu Tolgoi (OT), our copper and gold mine, spent $3.54 billion on national procurement#. OT maintains a dedicated national procurement policy focused on promoting and developing a safe and sustainable local supply chain, which includes the ‘Made in Mongolia’ strategy. Since 2017, OT has signed 30 contracts with Mongolia-based businesses for goods and services including personal protective items such as FFP2 masks and winter safety gloves, hygiene products such as hand sanitiser and wipes, and specialised professional services.

OT is also partnering with German international development agency GIZ and the Umnugovi Aimag to run a capacity building programme for businesses on topics such as health and safety, business integrity and management, financial literacy and lean manufacturing. Since 2018, OT has hosted 266 training sessions with more than 3,500 participants from more than 450 small and medium size businesses – 58% of whom were women. Following the training, 72% of the trainees recorded that their businesses expanded, including ten Umnugovi businesses that have become OT suppliers and/or subcontractors.

# Oyu Tolgoi's (OT) national procurement figure represents spend with suppliers registered in Mongolia and more than 50% owned by Mongolian citizens. It relates to the OT operations only, and does not include the underground project.

Work of the future

This year, we progressed partnerships that help develop students’ skills for the future. For example, in Australia, as part of our four-year A$10 million investment in the education technology sector, we supported the Future Minds Accelerator programme in partnership with leading start-up accelerator BlueChilli and Amazon Web Services. The Future Minds programme engaged 100,000 Australian children, focusing on skills such as critical thinking, problem solving and automation. In addition, the programme provided training and professional development opportunities for 2,700 teachers and engaged more than 1,000 schools helping drive interest in digital skills among students. The programme also helped the participating start-ups grow their businesses, creating 32 new jobs.

In Western Australia, 28 high school students participated in the Certificate II in Autonomous Workplace Operations programme, the first nationally recognised automation qualification in Australia, which we launched in partnership with South Metropolitan TAFE (a technical and further education institution). The course, which launched in 2019, is designed to provide participants with the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in the resources industry of the future. 

Community Contributions

Community Contributions by Programme Type

Community Contributions by Region

Community investments by region (2019 onwards)

Smiling woman and child at Pilbara oval

The Importance of Agreements

We were proud to be the first mining company in Australia to embrace native title to land and to form agreements with Traditional Owners. Today, agreements with Indigenous groups, on whose land our operations are often found, as well as others, are central to the way we work and an important way communities drive their own development.

We have many agreements with groups around the world. These community agreements are long-term, often with horizons beyond 50 years, and they help us establish relationships and run our business in a way that delivers mutual value.

Our agreements set the framework for how we engage with communities and Indigenous Peoples, often going beyond legal requirements and forming part of a long-term relationship that often spans decades. This framework also sets the value-sharing model for the financial and non-financial benefits communities receive for access to land, as well as the agreements for cultural heritage management and a range of other important actions.

Cultural Heritage

We work closely with Indigenous and land-connected peoples to understand their physical, spiritual and cultural connection with the local environment. Indeed, our work is predicated upon their active engagement in monitoring and managing cultural heritage. In order to guide our Australian assets, we require them to follow specific mandatory cultural standards.

We consider both tangible and intangible cultural values as part of cultural heritage.

Wherever we can, we design our activities to avoid damage to non-replicable cultural heritage. If it is not possible to avoid an area, we work together on the approach to it, which may include salvage and reclamation, or agreeing a non-disturbance area. In many cases, Indigenous Peoples, on whose land we operate, based on their unique cultural insight, supported by experts, designate which areas can and cannot be accessed.

We also invest in activities that help preserve intangible cultural values that may be affected by our operations. Prior to starting work, all employees and contractors interacting with communities, and in particular, Traditional Owners, are informed about our CSP policies and programmes, as well as the local community context. This includes cultural awareness training for our communities practitioners which, at our operational sites in Australia, is developed and delivered in partnership with local Indigenous groups.


Direct Economic Contribution Globally


Paid in Development Contributions


in Community Investments


Payments to Landowners

2020 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.

Indigenous Rights

Indigenous Peoples are entitled to all human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In addition, international law recognises their collective rights to their land and its resources, inclusive of special and spiritual relationships they may have with both, warrant particular attention and protection.

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
  • Adopt multiple strategies to hear the full diversity of views and interests, including minority views

Better Together: Combining Scientific and Traditional Knowledge to Help Protect Our Environment

Diavik diamond mine, Northwest Territories, Canada

In the Northwest Territories, in Canada, our Diavik diamond operations take place near some of the world’s purest water. Lac de Gras, and the fish that live in it, have sustained many generations of Indigenous people and are critical to their lifestyle. For more than 17 years, since our mine began production, we have brought together scientific and traditional knowledge to review the quality of the water and the health of the fish. Every year, biologists and members from the local Indigenous communities come together at a small camp on this remote location – about 200 kilometres from the Arctic Circle – to sample the water and assess the fish. This is one of the ways we help protect this sensitive environment, while also making sure our operations benefit the communities who call it home.

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.