Working together

Working Together

We acknowledge we need to do more to be better partners with Indigenous peoples globally. We need to find ways to maximise the positive impacts of our operations while also preserving the culture, identity and language of the communities where we work.

We seek to operate in a manner consistent with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and we strive to obtain the free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous peoples as defined in the IFC Performance Standard 7.

Cultural heritage

We know we have not always lived up to our own values in the way we approach cultural heritage.

While our teams on the ground work hard to protect heritage, we understand that there have been gaps in our broader approach across our business. We want to establish our heritage management as industry best practice and ensure the tragedy of Juukan Gorge is never repeated.

Our objective is to work closely every step of the way with Indigenous partners to implement meaningful change in the way that we manage and protect Indigenous cultural heritage. For example, we know that Traditional Owners want to talk directly to the people running the operations. So, we have made structural changes across our business globally so that cultural heritage responsibilities lie with our product groups and are fully embedded within our mining operations.

Working together to protect heritage

Our goal is to work closely with Indigenous and land-connected peoples to understand their physical, spiritual and cultural connection with the local environment.

Before we start to mine, we do cultural and environmental studies to understand the area, working with local people who live there, work there and know the land.

Wherever we can, we avoid disturbing cultural heritage sites. We employ archaeologists and scientists, and partner with universities, government and Indigenous organisations to find new and better ways to preserve cultural heritage and reduce our impact.

Where we have to disturb land, we consult with those for whom the cultural heritage site has significance. We work with them to preserve its value – for example by relocating artefacts – and we make sure we rehabilitate the land straight afterwards. Where possible, we also enable Indigenous peoples to maintain access to sites of cultural significance to maintain their connection and customary practices.

Agreements

We acknowledge we must provide greater transparency in our agreements and commitments.

We will not enforce any clauses that restrict Traditional Owners from raising concerns about cultural heritage matters or that restrict them from applying for statutory protection of any cultural heritage sites.

We are updating land access agreements in the Pilbara, Western Australia, where Traditional Owners have indicated that the current agreements have not met the aspirations of partnership we mutually sought at the outset. We will seek to agree an appropriate mechanism in our revised agreements so that there is a clear pathway for resolution of any differences of view that may emerge.

In Canada, we continue to work with Indigenous peoples on the implementation of agreements signed with communities, and we are progressing discussions on four new agreements with Indigenous communities in Quebec, Saskatchewan and British Columbia.

We will also continue to work with Indigenous peoples globally to increase the economic benefits that flow to their communities from employment, skills, training and business development.

In February 2022 we agreed a new co-designed management plan with the Yinhawangka Aboriginal Corporation. The plan will ensure the protection of significant social and cultural heritage values as part of our proposed development of the Western Range iron ore project in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.

The Social, Cultural Heritage Management Plan is the result of strong collaboration over the past year between the Yinhawangka people and Rio Tinto, including on-Country visits, archaeological and ethnographic surveys and workshops.

We are continuing to improve our approach and we are engaging with other Traditional Owner groups in the Pilbara to develop similar plans.

Matt, Local Procurement Manager, Perth

Meet Matt

Local Procurement Manager, Perth

I grew up mostly in Perth as the second eldest of six kids. My wife is German and I have three kids all born in different countries, as we’ve moved overseas a lot throughout my career with Rio Tinto."

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I’m also from the Kungarakan Indigenous language group of the Finniss River region of the Northern Territory – our native title includes Litchfield National Park, a beautiful part of Australia. The cultural diversity within my own family means that it’s a challenge sometimes to bring together and preserve both the Indigenous and German cultures, but my wife and I try our best, as all parents do.

My interest in the mining industry was sparked in my teenage years when I discovered that my family conducted small-scale artisanal mining of a Cassiterite (Tin) deposit on Country in the early 1900s. The site is where several of my ancestors were born or grew up and so there is a deep connection to it. For me, it’s also evidence that its possible for mining and Indigenous interests to co-exist if it’s done in the right way.

I’ve also always sought new opportunities that help me get outside of my comfort zone, learn new things and interact with new people. I started with Rio Tinto as a graduate fresh out of university as I was drawn to the vast array of opportunities that come with being in a global company. Since then, I’ve lived in many exciting places around the world and been exposed to many functions and cultures that would’ve been beyond my wildest expectations as a new graduate.

The other reason why I’ve worked for the business for so many years is my aspiration to be part of a cultural change in the mining industry. My extended family have experienced great pain from the aftermath of mining on our Country in the 50s and 60s. Nothing can change this history, but it provides me with deep motivation to get involved and look for ways to transform how our company and industry works in true partnership with Traditional Owners.

The tragic destruction of the Juukan Gorge rock shelters in 2020 has certainly made for some difficult conversations with family and friends, but I feel that contributing to the healing and change process from inside the business will enable a faster, deeper and more sustainable transformation.

I look forward to a world where shareholder and community value are considered equally, and our efforts to create shareholder value have a direct and tangible link to community value. Most of all, I’m excited for a future where I’m working for a First Nations Chief Executive of Rio Tinto.”

A new day

In February 2020 we signed the New Day agreement with the Cheslatta Carrier Nation, a long-term partnership to support a strong future for the Cheslatta community and our hydroelectric operations in the Nechako Watershed. We had been engaged in a process of reconciliation with the Cheslatta Carrier Nation for more than a decade.

The New Day agreement promotes the social and economic wellbeing of the Cheslatta Carrier Nation through engagement in the areas of training, employment, business opportunities and environmental stewardship. Measures include support for a remote training center built on Cheslatta property in 2018, which delivers diverse trades, skills, safety, marine and driver training courses. The agreement also establishes the New Day Scholarship Fund, which provides scholarships for Cheslatta students of all ages.

To promote employment and business opportunities, we will work together with the Cheslatta to develop internships and promote a model relationship between a global industry leader and a modern and progressive First Nation. Information will also be shared on job positions and procurement opportunities within the company’s hydroelectric operations, as well as on potential Cheslatta candidates and suppliers.

The agreement also provides for the creation of the Nechako Reservoir Stewardship Program, a joint initiative that will leverage local knowledge to maintain the Nechako Reservoir watershed ecosystem while promoting recreation and tourism opportunities consistent with ongoing Cheslatta stewardship activities.

The Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people

In allowing the destruction of the rock shelters at Juukan Gorge to occur, we fell far short of our values as a company and breached the trust placed in us by the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura (PKKP) people and the Traditional Owners of the lands on which we operate. It is our collective responsibility to ensure that the destruction of a site of such exceptional cultural significance never happens again, to earn back the trust that has been lost and to re-establish our leadership in communities and social performance.

In May 2022, we signed a co-management Heads of Agreement with the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura (PKKP) Aboriginal Corporation, which sets out how we will work together in partnership on a co-management approach to mining activities on PKKP Country. We are committed to building stronger relationships and working in partnership on-Country with all Indigenous people of the lands on which we operate.

We know there is more to do – regaining trust will take time and we will continue to be judged on our actions. We are grateful to the PKKP people for sharing their knowledge and guidance, and for walking beside us as we continue to learn how to better manage and protect cultural heritage.

The Eastern Guruma people

In June 2021 the Wintawari Guruma Aboriginal Corporation (WGAC) made a submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Northern Australia in relation to management of heritage at the Marandoo mine in the 1990s.

We acknowledge that the events of Marandoo, including passage of the Act, the disposal of salvaged materials, and reduced access to country, have caused hurt and pain for Eastern Guruma Traditional Owners.

We support the repeal of the Marandoo Act, and we are working with the Eastern Guruma people to modernise our agreement to meet our shared expectations of partnership.

20-year partnership

The Western Cape Communities Co-Existence Agreement (WCCCA) 20th Anniversary was celebrated on 15th June 2021 between Local Traditional Owners and Rio Tinto. The WCCCA agreement was one of the first Indigenous Land Use Agreements between a mining company and Traditional Owners in Australia and set a precedent for Rio Tinto and the industry.

Business development

We acknowledge calls for further action on increased opportunities for Indigenous businesses. We are working to improve our approach to Indigenous business development at our operations around the world.

In Australia, for example, we increased our spend with Indigenous suppliers by almost 40% from 2020, to A$400 million in 2021.

At many of our operations, we work with Indigenous consultants and chambers of commerce to offer training to businesses in areas such as business resilience and making competitive bids. In Canada, for example, we offer training conducted by Indigenous consultants to help local businesses improve their bidding capabilities.

Indigenous procurement strategies

Find out more about our local strategies:

Rio Tinto Buy Local >
Weipa Local and Indigenous Participation Strategy >
Diavik Diamond Mine >

Partnerships

Here are some of the ways we are working with Indigenous communities around the world:

  • Clontarf Foundation, Australia

    We are long-term partners of The Clontarf Foundation, which works to improve the education, discipline, life skills, self-esteem and employment prospects of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth. Foundation graduates can join our business via apprenticeships, traineeships and university scholarships.

  • North America’s first Indigenous-owned and operated railroad

    In 2005, the Iron Ore Company of Canada (IOC) sold part of the local railway for $1 to a collective of three Indigenous communities who live in the area: the Innu of Uashat Mak Mani-Utenam and Matimekush-Lac John, and the Naskapi Nation of Kawawachikamach. Since then, the service from Sept-Îles to Schefferville in Quebec, Canada, has brought employment and economic activity. Today, 98% of Tshiuetin Rail’s workforce is from Schefferville and Sept-Îles, and the railway provides job opportunities for young people too.

  • Tribal monitoring programme, US

    To help identify and protect culturally significant areas, in 2018 we partnered with the USDA Forest Service (USFS) to establish a Tribal Monitoring programme. The first of its kind in the United States, the programme trains and employs tribal members to work as part of specialised teams that identify and record important Native American sites and artifacts. Tribal Monitors provide a unique perspective and traditional ecological knowledge alongside archaeological insights.

    The programme provides another way for tribes to participate in the project's development, along with jobs, education and land stewardship opportunities for tribal members. Today, the programme employs around 50 members from seven Native American tribes to help conduct the ongoing environmental and cultural heritage activities.

  • Centre d’Affaires Régional Anosy (CARA), Madagascar

    Established in 2012 to support local businesses, CARA is a partnership between QMM, the Integrated Pole of Growth project, Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Fort Dauphin and the Association for the Promotion of Entrepreneurship. Its work includes providing finance, marketing and training to micro, small and medium-sized businesses and has, since inception, trained more than 4,500 people and supported around 200 businesses.