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Rio Tinto publishes first Communities and Social Performance report

September 30, 2021

Rio Tinto has released a report detailing the efforts the company has made toward repairing relationships with aboriginal communities following the destruction of the Juukan Gorge rock shelters in Western Australia in May 2020.

During expansion work at an iron ore mine Juukan Gorge, Rio Tinto carried out a blast that destroyed two caves that showed evidence of continual habitation dating back 46,000 years. The fallout from that incident led changes at the executive level for Rio Tinto and continued efforts by the company to improve its Communities and Social Performance (CSP) practices.

As part of efforts to increase transparency in its approach to cultural heritage protection, Rio Tinto has engaged with investors to develop reporting that details the company’s work to improve its CSP practices and outcomes.

The report details progress made to July 30, 2021 in areas such as Traditional Owner partnerships and agreement modernization in Western Australia; the introduction of new CSP structures and practices across the company; improved governance and increasing social expertise within the business.

Importantly, it includes direct feedback from Traditional Owner groups regarding commitments made by the company as part of the Board Review of Cultural Heritage Management in August 2020, the company said in a statement.

“We are working hard to rebuild trust and meaningful relationships with the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura (PKKP) people and other Traditional Owners across Australia,” said Rio Tinto chief executive Jakob Stausholm. “We understand this will take time and consistent effort, but our absolute focus is on improving our engagement with Indigenous Peoples and host communities so that we can better understand their priorities and concerns, minimize our impacts, and responsibly manage cultural heritage.

“We thank those Traditional Owners who generously shared their feedback and perspectives. While their insights confirm we have much more to do, feedback like this is vital to shaping relationships that are respectful, genuine and inclusive.

“We know that we cannot change the past. But we can continue to seek out, listen to and respect different voices and perspectives, to ensure that in the future, cultural heritage sites of significance are treated with the care they deserve. And the changes we make should improve, over time, our engagement with Indigenous and First Nations communities in every region where we operate worldwide.”

Some of the actions outlined in the report include:
• Ongoing remediation work of the Juukan Gorge in consultation with the PKKP people.
• The commencement of agreement modernization discussions with ten Pilbara Traditional Owner groups and their representatives.
• A detailed review of heritage sites that Rio Tinto manages in the Pilbara to ensure there are no other sites of exceptional cultural significance within the company’s existing mine plans.
• Building social performance capacity, capability and governance across the company. There are now more than 300 Communities and Social Performance professionals working on 60 sites in 35 countries, up from 250 professionals in 2020.
• Important steps to grow Indigenous leadership to help better understand host communities in the future. This includes a $50 million investment to retain, attract and grow Indigenous professionals and leaders in our Australian business.
• Enhancing cultural awareness training, with all frontline staff undertaking e-learning or face-to-face training with Indigenous Australians.
• Progressing the establishment of an Australian Advisory Group to help better manage policies and positions that are important to Indigenous Australians and the business; and
• A commitment to work with Traditional Owner groups to co-design and implement leading practice cultural heritage management.

Rio Tinto will integrate further reporting into its full-year reporting suite, complemented by additional disclosures where appropriate. Further consultation with a broad range of investors and other stakeholders will continue to assist in developing these disclosures.

The full report is available here https://www.riotinto.com/invest/reports.
 

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