Employee, Australia

Human rights

Respecting human rights is central to our values, and to the way we work – wherever we work.

We believe respect for human rights starts with everyday actions. It is a responsibility we take seriously – from governance of our human rights-related policies, which are overseen by the Sustainability Committee of the Board of Directors, to processes like pre-screening suppliers and providing human rights training to key employees.

Our approach to respecting human rights

We know we can affect human rights everywhere we work and beyond our operations. We also know that what we do in one location may affect people’s trust in how we will respect human rights elsewhere.

Consistent with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, we are committed to respecting all internationally recognised human rights, including acknowledging and respecting Indigenous peoples’ connections to lands and waters.

We voluntarily uphold a range of other international standards and guidelines, including the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights (VPSHR), the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and the UN Global Compact. Our human rights performance is also assessed through various external initiatives including the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative, Copper Mark and the ICMM.

We reiterate our commitment to respect internationally recognised human rights aligned with the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and to implement core international standards, including the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs).

At a minimum, we comply with national laws, applying our own standards when they are more rigorous. When national laws conflict with our standards, we look for ways to encourage the adoption of international standards, including through multi-stakeholder dialogue. We may also reconsider whether we can operate in such locations.

We also recognise the importance of addressing human rights risks in our business relationships, from our suppliers and customers to joint venture partners. We therefore look for ways to help our business partners respect human rights in line with international standards. At our non-managed operations, this may include best practice sharing around complaints handling, discussing human rights issues at joint management meetings and making our experts available to build capacity of operational employees.

2020 performance

This year, in the wake of Juukan Gorge, many stakeholders raised concerns about the implementation of our human rights commitments. The destruction of the rock shelters was a breach of our values, standards and procedures.


In 2020, we strengthened controls to ensure that we continue to prevent our involvement in adverse human rights impacts and, importantly, that we also provide remediation when we have caused or contributed to human rights harm. Provisions in this regard include assurance and auditing of sites to ensure compliance with the human rights section of our Communities and Social Performance Standard, and Group-function-specific human rights training. They also require that each of our sites has a complaints, disputes and grievance mechanism in place, in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights’ (UNGPs) effectiveness criteria for non-judicial grievance mechanisms.

We recognise the need to continually evolve our human rights performance and approach, and in 2021 we will focus, as part of a scheduled review of our human rights policy, on further embedding the policy and awareness of our salient human rights risks.

Key actions and achievements during 2020

  • Progressing a remedy process with the PKKP people
  • Engaging with human rights-related complaints in different fora, including the Australian National Contact Point for the OECD Guidelines on Multinational Enterprises regarding the Panguna mine in Bougainville
  • Providing support to our partner, the Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinée SA in its participation in discussions with the International Finance Corporation’s Office of the Compliance Advisor and community complainants regarding the Sangaredi mine in Guinea
  • IOC signed a Reconciliation and Collaboration Agreement with the Uashat mak Mani-utenam and Matimekush-Lac John communities and is currently negotiating an agreement with the Naskapi Nation of Kawawachikamach
  • Engaging openly with investors, civil society and community members in relation to a range of human rights issues to get feedback and improve our approach, including by convening roundtables in Australia and the UK with civil society organisations
  • Publishing our third annual report on implementation of the VPSHR and our fourth modern slavery statement
  • Commencing and progressing a labour rights supply chains risk assessment with a third-party provider to help us to better target our labour rights risk management work in our supply chain, including in relation to modern slavery
  • Raising awareness of modern slavery and other human rights issues among our global procurement team
  • Progressing a new internal assurance process on human rights and on Communities and Social Performance with a focus on cultural heritage, grievance mechanisms and third-party due diligence
  • Conducting VPSHR risk assessments, human rights training for security personnel and capacity building with business partners. This included delivering in-person training at our QIT Madagascar Minerals operation in March 2020, and sharing our VPSHR programme with a joint venture partner in South America
  • Continuing to support the Geneva Centre for Security Sector Governance and the International Committee of the Red Cross with the implementation and ongoing review of an online toolkit focused on Security, Armed Conflict and International Humanitarian Law, which they will use to improve the understanding and implementation of the VPSHR in countries affected by (or at risk of) armed conflict
  • Developing a COVID-19 security response model to support our business resilience activities at a global and local level. This included developing a quick reference guide, enabling more than 100 business resilience teams across our operations to rapidly implement revised security measures to control access to sites and support health screening measures
  • Introducing a new security governance structure, which includes a Group Security Area of Expertise, providing leading practice guidance to our asset-level security teams at high-risk sites. These changes allow our teams on the ground to work more closely with our communities on security plans, with a focus on de-escalation of potential conflict
  • Ranking third overall, and second within our sector, in the 2020 Corporate Human Rights Benchmark (CHRB). We note that the CHRB has appended a statement to our 2019 and 2020 results on recent events concerning Juukan Gorge

Our work on the ground

In line with the UNGPs, we undertake human rights due diligence to identify, prevent and mitigate adverse human rights impacts with which we may be involved. Human rights due diligence comprises four elements: identifying and assessing our impacts; integrating the findings from those assessments into relevant internal functions and processes and taking appropriate action; tracking our human rights performance and communicating how impacts are addressed. We prioritise action around our salient human rights issues – the human rights that we believe are at risk of the most severe negative impacts through our activities and business relationships.

But effective management of human rights issues requires daily vigilance – from the way we work with our local communities to the way we choose our suppliers. For example, we screen suppliers to identify potential human rights risks of engaging or renewing that supplier, including around issues like forced and child labour.

Because the issues are complex, and not always readily apparent, all of our sites are required to provide localised human rights training to staff, contractors and visitors. We also offer specific online human rights modules to our corporate functions on issues relating to communities, procurement, security and inclusion and diversity. And we look for other ways to build capacity amongst our colleagues of our human rights risks and how to manage them.

Complaints, disputes & grievances

Talking to our stakeholders and getting feedback, including complaints, is a vital part of our approach to respecting human rights. It helps us to provide effective remedies where we identify we have caused or contributed to harm, improve the way we run our operations, and is also a crucial part of understanding systemic issues as part of our human rights due diligence process.

All of our sites must have a complaints, disputes and grievance mechanism, in line with the UNGPs' Criteria of Effectiveness for Non-Judicial Grievance Mechanisms. These criteria help to make sure that any grievance mechanism we have in place is legitimate, accessible and trusted.

Criteria of effectiveness for non-judicial grievance mechanisms














Source of Continuous Learning


Based on Engagement & Dialogue

Our responsibility to respect human rights includes providing (or cooperating in) remediation in cases where we identify that we have caused or contributed to an adverse human rights impact. We also look to play a role in remediation where we are directly linked to harm through our products, services or operations. We know the importance not just of agreeing to legitimate remediation, but ensuring it is implemented in practice by our operational teams to ensure that remediation is delivered and fit for purpose.

In addition to our site-level mechanisms, we have a confidential, anonymous and independently operated whistleblowing programme, which is available to all employees and their families, suppliers, contractors, business partners and community members. We make it clear in our Supplier Code of Conduct that suppliers and contractors are encouraged to use this service as necessary.


Measuring and reporting on our performance

Our Communities and Social Performance targets for 2016-2021 include reducing repeat and significant complaints at our operations. We are focused on reducing repeat and significant complaints, rather than the number of complaints we receive. This is because we want to ensure that people are willing to use our grievance mechanisms to make complaints but also that we are managing complaints effectively so that the same issues are not recurring without being addressed, especially significant complaints.

Our internal assurance processes help us to track our performance. We conduct periodic business conformance audits which audit a business or operation against our health, safety, environment and communities performance standards and management system. This includes compliance with the human rights section of our communities and social performance standard.

Our annual Modern Slavery Statement also explains how we are assessing the effectiveness of the actions we are taking to assess and address modern slavery risks. In 2020 this included each of our product groups conducting a self-assessment and certification of social risks, which will now be undertaken annually. Given the nature of the Commercial division’s work, their 2020 certification was focused on managing human rights risks with a focus on labour rights including modern slavery.

We have also taken steps to increase our transparency around our human rights performance. This includes publishing our Annual Report to the Voluntary Principles Initiative on implementation of the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights and our annual Modern Slavery Statement.

Our Human Rights commitments

We have committed to follow a range of international standards, including:

Human rights and our supply chain

We work to prevent and address human rights harm through our business relationships. We do this by pre-screening potential business partners on human rights before we engage them, as well as requiring suppliers (including subcontractors) to adhere to our Supplier Code of Conduct which necessitates respect for human rights.

From 2019, our standard contractual terms have also required suppliers (including subcontractors) to take reasonable steps to prevent and address modern slavery in their supply chains, and granted us the right to audit our suppliers for compliance against these requirements.

We also regularly report on modern slavery and other supply chain human rights themes.

Public guides

We have developed a number of public guides on human rights related issues to help further public awareness and the capacity of our own people and business partners. These guides are:

Read More

Working with human rights defenders

We know we do not always get it right, and we welcome conversations and partnerships that help us improve. We value diversity of thoughts and ideas, and know that civil society organisations and other human rights and environmental defenders can be important advocates for change. We respect the human rights of these individuals and groups and recognise the importance of an open civic space. We make it clear that attacks on human rights and environmental defenders will not be accepted, including when we engage with our business partners.

Our statement on the role of civil society organisation outlines our approach to engaging with civil society organisations and other human rights defenders. This includes regular dialogue with civil society organisations on human rights issues.

Salient human rights issues

Our salient human rights issues are those where we could have the most severe impact on people through our operations or business relationships.

We prioritise the following six salient human rights issues, and we continue to work to prevent and address these, and other human rights issues, across our operations and business relationships.

In line with the human rights due diligence process set out in the UNGPs, we manage our salient human rights issues through ongoing risk management processes. These aim to identify, prevent, mitigate and account for how we address any involvement in adverse human rights impacts.

  • Operational Security
  • Labour Rights
  • Environmental Impacts
  • Indigenous Peoples
  • Land Access & Resettlement
  • In-migration

Operational Security


  • Right to life
  • Right to security of person
  • Freedom from torture, cruel and inhumane treatment
  • Freedom of movement


We train public and private security personnel, to ensure they're aware of our expectations in relation to securing our operations in a way that respects human rights. Our online Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights (VPSHR) training is mandatory for all security personnel at high-risk sites and is strongly recommended elsewhere.

Labour Rights


  • Right to life
  • Right to enjoy just and favourable conditions of work
  • Freedom from slavery or forced labour
  • Freedom from child labour
  • Right to freedom of association and collective bargaining


We pre-screen suppliers to identify risks relating to their human rights performance.

Through The way we work and our Supplier code of conduct, we create clear expectations for employees and suppliers (including contractors) to safeguard labour rights.

Our standard contractual terms also require compliance with our Supplier code of conduct. We also now have a modern slavery clause as detailed in our 2018 and 2019 Modern Slavery Statements.

Environmental Impacts


  • Right to life
  • Right to clean drinking water and sanitation
  • Right to health

    We work with host communities to minimise impacts on the local environment. For example, to address concerns raised by herders in Mongolia regarding access to water, our Oyu Tolgoi team in Mongolia has undertaken a range of measures including participatory water monitoring in partnership with herder communities, identifying additional underground water sources and establishing a bulk water supply and treatment facility. We understand there are potential interconnections between climate change and human rights and will work to incorporate these in our response to climate change.

    Indigenous Peoples


    • Right to non-discrimination
    • Right to self-determination
    • Right to participate in cultural life
    • Right to property


    Long before mining starts, our teams do cultural and environmental studies to understand the area and look for ways to reduce any negative impacts.

    We respect Indigenous peoples’ connection to their traditional lands in a way that celebrates their culture and right to self-determination. We strive to achieve the Free, Prior and Informed Consent of affected Indigenous communities as defined in the International Finance Corporation's Performance Standard 7, and the ICMM Position Statement on Indigenous peoples and mining. One way we demonstrate our commitment is through making agreements with Indigenous communities.

    Read more about our agreements with traditional owners. 

    Land Access & Resettlement


  • Right to an adequate standard of living
  • Right to property
  • Right to clean drinking water and sanitation
  • Right to education
  • Right to health
  • Right to participate in cultural life

    We manage sustainable change for local community members that may be resettled, economically displaced or experience restricted access to land, as a result of our operations.

    We ensure that resettlement is avoided where possible, and where unavoidable complies with the IFC Performance Standard 5 on “Land Acquisition and Involuntary Resettlement” so that resettled people and communities have their standard of living and livelihood sustainably restored or improved over the long term as a result of the resettlement.



    • Right to health
    • Right to education
    • Right to non-discrimination


    We manage local population changes linked to our operational presence, in a way that considers access to basic services as well as managing other negative impacts linked to population influxes, such as the spread of infectious diseases.

    At QMM in Madagascar, we partnered with UNICEF and regional health authorities to establish a joint public health programme for the Fort Dauphin district, focused on the protection of children. We also partnered with the Ministry of Health (through regional health authorities) to establish a joint public health programme for the Fort Dauphin district, focused on combatting malaria and HIV transmission.

    We also look out for unintended negative impacts on human rights when working to respect other human rights. For example, we understand the importance of mitigation measures to safeguard human rights, including labour rights, of expatriates when putting in place steps (such as limiting access to visit a local community) to ensure their presence does not negatively impact on the human rights of community members.