The resources we mine to produce the materials we need today and tomorrow, often occur in remote locations and sensitive environments.
We are committed to understanding these environments and mitigating the impact our operations can have on them, from the very beginning to the end of an operation’s life. This means not only taking care to mitigate any adverse impacts, but also ensuring that we work alongside the local communities whose lives and livelihoods rely upon them.
We implement strict internal standards and practices in line with – and which sometimes go beyond – local and international regulations. For example, our environmental standards require all of our sites to involve local communities in monitoring activities and to share performance with stakeholders on a regular basis. For example, at the Diavik Diamond Mine, in Canada’s Northwest Territories: we bring together biologists and local Indigenous people, combining scientific knowledge with traditional methods to preserve the cultural heritage and ecosystem services alongside wildlife.
We want to make sure our partnerships have real impact for all parties, so we engage in projects with only a small, purposefully selected number of partners at a time. For example, we are a member of the Proteus Partnership, a collaboration with the United Nations Environment Program. We work with formal partners like this and other civil society organisations to further develop our combined knowledge base, and address common challenges associated with land stewardship, global biodiversity loss, potable water scarcity and stewardship, and impacts associated with climate change.
We believe it is important to be open and transparent, so we report externally on our greenhouse gas and other air emissions, waste and tailings, along with our Group water stewardship practices. We are constantly looking at how technology can help us improve our reporting scope and accessibility.
We see ourselves as long-term stewards of natural resources including land and water, and continually look for ways to improve local natural resource management practices and contribute to the conservation of sensitive ecosystems. We have robust standards that clearly articulate what is required from our sites in terms of biodiversity and ecosystem services management, emissions control and waste management. This ensures that our sites act as responsible stewards of the lands and waters where we operate. For example, in Australia, we are working with Indigenous people to rehabilitate land using ancient seeds.
At our QIT Madagascar Minerals mine, our team restores wetlands to replace the water management paddocks used during mining as the mine progresses. By closure, the total area of these wetlands will be the size of 300 football (soccer) fields. These new wetlands are a home for birds, fish and other animals – like crocodiles – and supply the local Antanosy people with plants used for crafts, fishing baskets and to build traditional houses. In a cyclone-prone area these wetlands also serve as important flood attenuation systems. In the South Gobi desert in Mongolia, local herders are involved in our water monitoring programme to build local knowledge on water stewardship and incorporate traditional knowledge into management practices.
We also partner with universities and academics to improve our knowledge and environmental management methods. This year Queensland Alumina Limited – an independently managed joint venture between Rio Tinto and Rusal – along with the University of Queensland’s Sustainable Minerals Institute, received an award for research into technologies that could turn red mud – a waste product created during alumina refining – into soil able to grow plants.
We are proud of our record on protecting the environment, but know we have more to do – and from the Pilbara, in Western Australia to Mongolia to Saguenay-Lac-St. Jean, in Quebec, Canada, we are committed to fulfilling our obligations to our business and to the environments of our local communities, where our employees live and work.