Family in the Pilbara community

Pilbara Communities

Rio Tinto Iron Ore operates on Banjima, Muntulgura Guruma, Ngarluma, Ngarlawangga, Nyiyaparli, Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura; Robe River Kuruma, Whadjuk (Noongar), Yindjibarndi, Yinhawangka and Yaburara Country. We acknowledge the Nations on whose traditional lands we live and work, and the unique connection Indigenous Australians have to water, land and country. We pay respect to Elders past and present.

By working together with our community partners, we strive to make a lasting positive impact with the people and communities where we operate and where our employees live and work.

Cultural heritage in the Pilbara

Our Pilbara iron ore operations are on or near land that is significant to Indigenous groups, including Traditional Owners. We recognise the cultural, spiritual and physical connections that Traditional Owners have with the land, water, plants and animals across the Pilbara region of Western Australia.

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

Our comprehensive cultural heritage management framework focuses on engagement with Traditional Owners through all phases of the mining life cycle – from exploration to operation and closure.

Co-managing Country

We are changing the way we work so we can better protect cultural heritage.

Co-design is now our preferred model for working with all Traditional Owners and community members.

In a co-designed model, we sit together with all partners to map out our journey together towards a shared outcome, providing better heritage and environmental outcomes, and better certainty for mine development.

All partners discuss and agree on protocols for joint decision making on environmental matters, mine planning and closure. And we work together to share and record Traditional knowledge, protect cultural and heritage values on partners' lands, and make joint decisions to manage the impact of our operations.

The Western Range on Yinhawangka Country is the first mine we have co-designed. Together, we worked through various scenarios to design the mine footprint, and jointly developed the Social and Cultural Heritage Management Plan.

Cultural heritage partnerships

We are proud to partner with the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation and the University of Western Australia in ongoing investigations and management of rock art, including a major research programme, Murujuga: Dynamics of the Dreaming, and in an annual field school on the Burrup Peninsula near Dampier. This gives students and Indigenous rangers an opportunity to work together in the identification, recording and management of the significant rock art in this area.

Community agreements in the Pilbara

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 whose land we operate on, as well as others, are central to the way we work and an important way communities drive their development.

Our agreements set the framework for how we engage with communities and Traditional Owners, often going beyond legal requirements and forming part of a long-term relationship that can span decades.

  • Colours of our Country
  • Local voices
  • Employees in the community
  • Fly-In, Fly-Out employment
  • Indigenous Employment
  • Indigenous Scholarship & Cadetship Programs

Colours of our Country

The Pilbara has a rich history and a vibrant artistic heart. The land and its Traditional Owners hold generations of stories, ceremony and culture.

Since 2006, the Colours of our Country exhibition has provided people in Perth with a small snapshot of these stories and customs – 1,500 kilometres away from the magnificent landscapes that influence so many of the works on show.

Colours of our Country is more than an exhibition. It creates economic development opportunities for the featured artists, supports the ongoing sustainability of art groups and artists, providing an outlet for cultural expression.

Local voices

Our Local Voices programme helps us understand what is important to the community and provide better outcomes for the region.

Our recent updates include a series of short online surveys where community members can express their views and experiences with Rio Tinto confidentially. We keep participants up to date with the outcomes of the surveys.

When a community member completes a survey, they earn an e-token on behalf of a participating community group. Community groups can accrue e-tokens over time and cash them in for a donation.

The Local Voices programme is a valuable source of feedback and has already helped guide our work with communities in the Pilbara. Following the feedback received last year, we:

  • Committed up to A$5 million in funding to develop a new childcare centre in Tom Price
  • Extended our sponsorship of the West Pilbara Turtle Program
  • Provided support packages to the City of Karratha and the Shire of Ashburton to assist economic stimulus initiatives

For more information, to register your community organisation or to sign up for surveys, visit the Local Voices website.

Employees in the Community

Our employees are passionate about giving back to their communities and we support that passion through programs that reward them for their volunteer time, matching employee fundraising and encouraging participation in community and fundraising activities.

Fly-In, Fly-Out Employment

Our fly in-fly out (FIFO) programme continues to deliver significant economic benefits for regional towns in Western Australia through stable employment and more spending with local businesses.

We support a vibrant regional Western Australia not only through providing local jobs, but also through the enduring support we provide to local schools, local governments and community organisations.

This regional workforce makes up 33 per cent of our total FIFO workforce, with employees commuting from the Kimberley, Gascoyne, Mid West, Goldfields, South West and Great Southern regions.

Indigenous Employment

We aim to prioritise Indigenous people and in particular, Traditional Owners, in recruitment or internal redeployment opportunities, and the number of Traditional Owners in our business continues to grow. We also focus on career paths, supporting tertiary students and developing opportunities for Indigenous businesses both at Rio Tinto and more broadly.

Indigenous Scholarship & Cadetship Programs

Our Indigenous scholarship program is part of a shared commitment with signatory Traditional Owner groups in the Pilbara to support Indigenous students who are studying at university in Australia. We prioritise students from Traditional Owner groups who are a member of the Regional Framework Deed. Scholarship recipients have the opportunity to progress to employment through our vacation and graduate programs.

Contact Pilbara Communities


Community enquiries

E: Community Feedback

T: 1800 992 777