Waterslide in the Pilbara


We know our operations have a far-reaching impact on society. Our ability to work together to deliver positive outcomes is increasingly important as society comes together to address global challenges like climate change. We are engaging with our people and our stakeholders to learn how we can play our role.

The communities where we live and work are fundamental to our business. They include Indigenous peoples, landowners, governments, business partners, civil society groups, neighbours and our colleagues. We aim to contribute to a shared future and positive legacy by developing lasting relationships with people, learning about and supporting their goals and aspirations, avoiding or mitigating adverse impacts and respecting connections to land.

The destruction of the rock shelters at Juukan Gorge in May 2020 was a clear breach of our values and the trust placed in us by Indigenous peoples to respect the lands on which we operate. In the two years since, we have been changing the way we work in every part of our business.

Communities and Social Performance Commitments Disclosure Report

We have been working hard to implement meaningful change in the way Indigenous cultural heritage within our operations is managed and protected.

In September 2022, we released our second Communities and Social Performance Commitments Disclosure Report. The report details progress made in areas such as partnering with Pilbara Traditional Owners in modernising and improving agreements; introducing a new Communities and Social Performance model across the company; improving our governance, planning and systems relating to communities; and increasing Indigenous leadership and developing cultural competency within Rio Tinto.

How we work with communities

Mining and processing, by its very nature, disturbs the environment and can impact surrounding communities. It also delivers significant economic and social benefits, including the production of essential materials, employment, small business development, tax and royalty streams, training and skills development, and socioeconomic programmes.

We recognise that while the benefits of our activities are widespread, many of the negative impacts are localised. Our teams work in partnership with communities to understand how our activities impact their lives, culture and heritage. Through meaningful engagement, we can respond to community concerns, mitigate negative impacts and optimise socioeconomic benefits.

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 and the United Nations Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights.

Our teams – everyone from archaeologists and economic development experts to human rights specialists and our operational leaders – 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 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 design our engagement so it is relevant and appropriate for the local context, in terms of method of communication and language.  

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.

Engaging with communities on a low-carbon future

We believe we have an important role to play in ensuring that the green energy transition is progressed in a fair and socially inclusive way. This will be a key focus for our Communities and Social Performance teams from 2022 and will include active community engagement, managing potential adverse social and human rights impacts and exploring and enabling ways for host communities to share in economic opportunities. 

In 2021, our QIT Madagascar Minerals (QMM) and its partners laid the foundation stone for a new solar and wind energy plant. In addition to allowing our operations in Madagascar to be carbon neutral by 2023, the plant will replace the majority of the electricity supplied to Fort-Dauphin and its 80,000 community members with clean energy. QMM and its partners are working with local authorities to develop manufacturing capacity to produce equipment for the renewable industry locally.

Economic and social development

In addition to the taxes and royalties we pay, and the opportunities we provide, in 2021, we contributed to our communities in a variety of ways:

  • $222.9 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
  • $72 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
  • $19.1 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 for a community, and which we are mandated to make under a legally binding agreement, by a regulatory authority or otherwise by law

Through our local employment and procurement initiatives, we help create jobs for local residents and new opportunities for local businesses – including the opportunity to supply us with goods and services. In 2021, we spent $19.4 billion with suppliers around the world.

At the Oyu Tolgoi mine in Mongolia, between 2010 and the end of 2021, we spent $4.1 billion on national procurement#. Since 2011, Oyu Tolgoi has developed and implemented policies to create a supply chain in Mongolia with a particular focus on the South Gobi region. This includes a ‘Made in Mongolia’ procurement strategy to source products manufactured locally. Our South Gobi spend has grown from $0.5 million in 2010 to over $888 million in 2021. The value of the spend with national suppliers that are majority owned by Mongolian citizens now accounts for 71% of overall operational spend.

We also work to help  build new skills and improve educational outcomes in host communities. In Western Australia, home to our iron ore business, we partnered with the government of Western Australia and South Metropolitan TAFE (a technical and further education institution) to develop the Certificate II in Autonomous Workplace Operations programme, the first nationally recognised automation qualification in Australia. This partnership, launched in 2019, aims to train and certify people in new skills that are transferable across industries, so they follow opportunities wherever they arise. 

#Oyu Tolgoi's (OT) national procurement figure represents spend with suppliers registered in Mongolia and more than 50% owned by Mongolian citizens. It relates to the OT operations only, and does not include the underground project.

2021 performance

  • Year in review
  • Year in numbers

Strengthening communities and social performance

Following the destruction of the rock shelters at Juukan Gorge in May 2020, we have strengthened our approach to managing Indigenous cultural heritage. We are determined to build more meaningful and genuine relationships with Indigenous peoples and host communities around the globe.

We have strengthened our social performance structure, governance approach and processes. As part of our efforts to improve transparency, we have committed to providing updates on the work we are undertaking to enhance our communities and social performance practices. In September 2021, we released our Communities and Social Performance Commitments Disclosure Interim Report, our first report dedicated to sharing the progress on the actions from the 2020 Board Review into Juukan Gorge. 

Read more about progress >

Working with First Nations, Canada 

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.

To advance reconciliation efforts in 2021, we focused on strengthening our employees’ cultural awareness. In June, our business celebrated National Indigenous History Month by supporting a series of events across the country, including a fireside chat between Former National Chief Phil Fontaine and our Aluminium Chief Executive, Ivan Vella.

In September, we commemorated National Truth and Reconciliation Day by hosting an awareness session which provided employees with information on the residential schools in Canada, including a first-hand account from a survivor.

Resolution Copper project, Arizona, US

At our Resolution Copper project in Arizona, we continue to build relationships with impacted communities and Native American tribes. We recognise the enduring historical connection Native American Tribes have with the land at, or near, the proposed mine. We are committed to ongoing consultation with Native American tribes and working together in a manner consistent with the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) Statement on Indigenous Peoples and Mining. We are progressing partnerships with over half of these tribes and our aim is to have a mutual dialogue with all tribes. Since 2013, the US Forest Service (USFS) has led a rigorous review of the project, including consulting 11 Native American tribes with historic connections to the land around Resolution Copper. This dialogue has led to changes in the project design and the implementation of other measures to address stakeholder concerns. While the USFS published the Final Environmental Impact Statement in January 2021, the US Department of Agriculture directed the USFS to review and engage further with consulting Native American tribes. We support the National Environmental Policy Act process and continue to engage with local communities and Native American tribes to further shape the Resolution Copper project.

Richards Bay Minerals (RBM), South Africa

We are committed to fostering broad-based development of the four local communities that host our RBM mine in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. However, following a series of business disruptions that put the safety of our employees at risk, we declared force majeure at the operation in June 2021. Significant work has been done to improve the situation, including reaching milestone agreements with traditional leaders, local youth and business forums. In August 2021, RBM and representatives of all four communities reached an agreement to release 130 million rand from the community trusts. These funds will be channelled towards local economic development initiatives. The agreement also aims to secure improved community trust governance.

Simandou project, Guinea

At our Simandou iron ore project in Guinea, we continue to engage with stakeholders and local communities to deliver a range of economic development and community health initiatives, including COVID-19 and Ebola response programmes. We are working with communities to help them prepare for future operations, identify and manage our impacts, and design and deliver regional and local economic development programmes. We engaged with other mining projects in Guinea to discuss the potential for enhancing offset options, as well as supporting the Centre Forestier N’Zérékoré and Pic de Fon Classified Forest management committee.

Oyu Tolgoi, Mongolia

Oyu Tolgoi supports economic opportunities through livelihood and economic diversification initiatives for communities in Umnugovi aimag. We support herders’ cooperatives and work with local subject matter experts to improve livestock health services, increase the productivity of livestock, encourage vegetable and dairy production, and foster new business development through capacity building, strengthening market linkages and nurturing entrepreneurial mindsets among local communities. Our Oyu Tolgoi South Gobi Development Strategy will expand on this work over the next five years to boost local procurement and employment above their current level of 24.5% and 24.8%, respectively.

Jadar lithium-borates project, Serbia

In 2021, we committed $2.4 billion to the Jadar lithium-borates project in Serbia, one of the world’s largest greenfield lithium projects. 

In January 2022, the Government of Serbia cancelled the Spatial Plan for the Jadar project and required all related permits to be revoked. We remain committed to exploring all options and are reviewing the implications for our activities and our people in Serbia.

We acknowledge the concerns from local communities and are committed to meaningful engagement to explore ways to address these concerns.

Panguna mine, Bougainville, Papua New Guinea

The Panguna mine was operated by Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL), majority-owned by Rio Tinto, for 17 years from 1972 until 1989, when operations were suspended due to an uprising against the mine and a civil war. Rio Tinto has not had access to the mine for over 30 years. In 2016, Rio Tinto transferred its 53.83% majority shareholding in BCL to the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) and the Papua New Guinea (PNG) Government for no consideration, enabling the ABG and PNG to hold an equal share in BCL of 36.4% each.

In September 2020, the Human Rights Law Centre (HRLC) filed a complaint against Rio Tinto on behalf of 156 Bougainville residents with the Australian National Contact Point (AusNCP) regarding the Panguna site. The complaint alleges that we are accountable for significant breaches of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises relating to past and ongoing environmental and human rights impacts arising from the Panguna mine.

In July 2021, following months of constructive discussions facilitated by the AusNCP, Rio Tinto and Bougainville community members, represented by the HRLC, announced an agreement to identify and assess the legacy impacts of the mine.

A joint committee of stakeholders, the Panguna Mine Legacy Impact Assessment Committee, has been formed to oversee a detailed independent assessment of the Panguna mine to identify and better understand the environmental and human rights impacts of the mine.

The Committee was established by the ABG and the parties to the AusNCP process (Rio Tinto, the HRLC and the community members the HRLC represents). It is chaired by an independent facilitator with representatives from the Independent State of PNG and BCL, as well as other clan landowners and community representatives. The first meeting of the Committee was held on 30 November 2021. This was a constructive and important first step towards resolving the highly complex legacy of the Panguna mine.

Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinée SA (CBG), Guinea

CBG is a bauxite operation in Guinea owned by Halco Mining Inc. (51%) and the Guinean government (49%). Halco is a consortium comprised of Rio Tinto (45%), Alcoa (45%) and Dadco Investments (10%). We participate on the boards of Halco and CBG, with representation on various shareholder oversight committees.

Through our board and committee roles, we have been proactively monitoring CBG’s approach to environmental protection, community issues and human rights. We are aware of the concerns regarding access to land and water, the pace of livelihood restoration programmes as well as aspects of CBG’s stakeholder engagement. 

In 2021, sustainability advisory committees were created at Halco and CBG levels, strengthening our oversight and providing support to CBG for the improvement of its social and environmental practices, including their response to a complaint made to the International Finance Corporation (IFC)’s Office of the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO).

The mediation process facilitated by the CAO reached an important milestone in 2021 with an agreement to adjust the mitigation measures related to blasting. 

Halco continues to participate in the mediation process as an observer, alongside the IFC.

Socioeconomic contribution

In 2021, our direct economic contribution was $66.6 billion, including the total value of operating costs, employee wages and benefits, payments to providers of capital, payments to governments, development contributions, payments to landowners and community investments. Catalysing economic opportunities for our host communities and regions continues to be a priority. We strive to employ local people, buy local products and engage local services. For example, we awarded contracts valued at over A$500 million to local Western Australian and Pilbara Aboriginal businesses for the Greater Tom Price operations. 

Through social investment, we seek to deliver positive, measurable social outcomes and support communities to achieve their goals and aspirations. Our total voluntary global social investments amounted to $72 million, covering health, education, environment, agricultural and business development programmes. This is an increase of approximately 53% on our 2020 voluntary social investment spend.

This increase is associated with the completion of the $25 million COVID-19 pledge, a review of social investment strategies across product groups, and the launch of a number of significant multi-year partnerships, particularly through our Iron Ore business.

In 2021, some of our social investment activities included:

  • Delivering life opportunities to young Indigenous peoples through a A$1.265 million Indigenous Advancement partnership with the Western Australia Football Commission
  • Investing A$12 million over three years to improve the health and wellbeing of children in Western Australia and supporting further research into mental health and juvenile diabetes with the Telethon Institute
  • Providing 1,800 community members with access to Computerised Tomography (CT) services in Weipa, North Queensland, through the provision of a CT scanner. The A$1.15 million partnership between Rio Tinto and Old Mapoon Aboriginal Corporation leverages an A$1.35 million contribution from the Queensland Government
  • Supporting charities through the RioGivers programme enables our employees to make donations to selected charities and have these matched by Rio Tinto on a dollar-for-dollar basis. In 2021, A$222,000 was matched through the RioGivers Australia programme, and C$660,000 through the Canada Employee Giving programme
  • Investing in future Canadian leaders through C$1 million in ’Let’s Talk Science’ experiential STEM-Learning programmes over the next four years
  • Renewing our partnership with the Breakfast Club of Canada with C$750,000 over three years to provide nutritional meals to over 4,000 students in 18 Indigenous schools in British Columbia and Quebec
  • Establishing an institutional research structure dedicated to the indigenisation of higher education through a C$1.5 million partnership with Université du Québec à Chicoutimi (UQAC). The structure will be established in collaboration with several Indigenous communities and focus, among other things, on training the next generation of Indigenous scientists
  • Supporting STEM and robotics programmes in local schools in Superior, US through a $1.2 million partnership with the Superior Unified School District
  • Building the capability of geotechnical and mining professionals in Mongolia through a $2.75 million partnership with the Mongolian University of Science and Technology
  • Supporting increased COVID-19 testing capacity through a $1.66 million partnership with the Regional Public Health Directorate in Fort Dauphin, Madagascar

Our 2021 performance against targets

  • 95% (20 out of 21 asset groupings#) have met their 2021 repeat complaints target
  • 90% (19 out of 21 asset groupings) have met their 2021 significant complaints target
  • 81% (17 out of 21 asset groupings) have met their locally set procurement target
  • 53% (10 out of 19 asset groupings) have met their locally set employment target1

#For the global communities targets, we report against asset groupings. This may encompass more than one asset or site, particularly when multiple assets or sites are associated with the same communities and/or share an internal Communities functional team. For example, our Australian iron ore assets are considered to be one asset grouping.
1COVID-19 restrictions, workforce supply constraints and organisational restructures are the primary drivers which have impacted asset achievement of locally set employment targets. Two asset groupings are not reporting against the employment target in 2021. Further explanatory notes for each asset are provided in the Sustainability Fact Book.

Supporting communities through the pandemic 

During the COVID-19 global pandemic, we have taken active measures to reduce the risk of transmission from our employees and contractors to local communities. For example, at our Weipa bauxite operations in far north Queensland, Australia, we worked closely with the local disaster management group, including the town authority and medical department, to develop and implement specific plans in response to the federal government declaring biosecurity health zones. At the Diavik Diamond Mine in the Northwest Territories, Canada, where many of our employees come from vulnerable, remote communities, we introduced a range of measures to minimise the risk of transmission, including mandatory testing, calls with medical professionals prior to travel, enhanced hygiene and physical distancing measures, roster and flight changes, and the mandatory use of masks.

We have strict protocols in place guiding the way we engage with communities. This included building two community-related verification steps into our critical risk management system, requiring our teams to assess potential COVID-19 risks to the community and develop a plan to manage them. If, for whatever reason, physical interaction with any community may pose risks, we have asked our employees and partners to turn to non-physical ways to interact, or to cancel or postpone the engagement. 

Read more about our COVID-19 response >

Smiling woman and child at Pilbara oval

The importance of agreements

We are 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.

Following the tragic destruction of the rock shelters at Juukan Gorge, we committed to partner with Pilbara Traditional Owners in modernising and improving agreements. 

Read more about how we are working with Pilbara Traditional Owners >

Cultural heritage management

We remain committed to achieving best practice cultural heritage management. We will continue to work with Indigenous peoples and communities to ensure we better understand their priorities and concerns, minimise our impacts, and responsibly manage Indigenous cultural heritage within our operations.

We support the strengthening of cultural heritage legislation and advocate for more meaningful engagement, the protection of heritage values, strengthened agreement making, and certainty for all stakeholders.

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, Indigenous peoples, 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


Paid in development contributions


in community investments


Payments to landowners

2021 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.

Indigenous rights

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
  • Hear the full range of views and interests, including minority and divergent 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.