Waterslide in the Pilbara


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 Expertise

How We Work with Communities

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 2019, we contributed to our communities in a variety of ways:

  • $147 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
  • $36 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
  • $13 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 and which we are mandated to make by law (including under a legally-binding agreement) or regulation

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 2019, we spent $17.2 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, about 94% of our employees are Mongolian, and since 2010 we have spent more than $3 billion with Mongolian suppliers.

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 (Technical and Further Education) to develop three nationally recognised qualifications in automation. This partnership aims to train and certify people in new skills that are transferable across industries, so they follow opportunities wherever they arise.

And in Quebec, Canada, we partnered with Hydro Quebec to create the Centre of Excellence in Energy Efficiency, which works to help entrepreneurs commercialise technological innovations in energy efficiency and renewable energy.

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


Taxes & Royalties Paid Globally


Paid in Development Contributions


in Community Investments


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 Gudai-Darri (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 Gudai-Darri (Koodaideri) mine, currently under construction. This contract will help establish the 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."

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.

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 Rio Tinto Buy Local 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