Rio Tinto outlines path to stronger Cultural Heritage management

March 23, 2021

Rio Tinto has released virtual seminars and web presentations that detail how the company is working in partnership with Traditional Owners, host communities and independent groups to strengthen and improve its approach to cultural heritage and community relations.

The virtual presentations include presentations from Rio Tinto’s board of directors and executive committee members as well as experts in the field. In the presentations, Rio Tinto outlines actions it has introduced to strengthen its performance and governance of cultural heritage following the destruction of the rockshelters at Juukan Gorge in May 2020 and outline the steps it will take to further improve its performance.

One key step is confirmation that an Indigenous Advisory Group (IAG) will be established to ensure Rio Tinto has a better understanding of Indigenous culture and issues in Australia, including at the board level. It follows broad consultation with Traditional Owners and Indigenous leaders with the aim to introduce more diversity and breadth of views, including external perspective, in decision-making.

Rio Tinto has also commenced work to review and re-define what is best practice for cultural heritage management in the mining industry. This work will be done in consultation with the IAG and other independent parties and will enable Rio Tinto to identify gaps in current protocols and provide a clear pathway to re-establish trust over time and regain Rio Tinto’s previous standing in this area.

“We have reflected a great deal as a company and leadership team over recent months – listening, learning and responding by taking actions to better manage Traditional Owner partnerships and cultural heritage aspects of our business,” said Rio Tinto chief executive Jakob Stausholm.

“One thing is clear – building meaningful and trusting relationships is fundamental. And that starts with Traditional Owners. We must focus on real engagement with our communities, understanding their felt experience and never forgetting that, ultimately, we are guests on their land. And, as guests, we must respect our hosts and work with them to understand their priorities and concerns and minimize our impacts.

“We also must remember that our stay is temporary. We need to ensure we leave a positive legacy. This is essential to our business. We are committed to doing the right thing and working with our hosts to earn the right to be a trusted partner once more.”

Following the events at Juukan Gorge, Rio Tinto reviewed its internal processes and also consulted widely with Traditional Owners, host communities, governments and other stakeholders. As a result, the company has significantly strengthened internal practices, policies and governance.

As part of Rio Tinto’s efforts to increase transparency in its approach to cultural heritage, the company has also committed to additional disclosures on the progress of heritage measures being undertaken. Rio Tinto is also engaging with a number of global investors and investor groups1, to jointly identify additional disclosures on:

1. Progress against Rio Tinto’s own commitments and internal work-streams, (including Trusted Partnership Plan), external obligations and recommendations.

2. How Traditional Owners’ views are being sought and considered in shaping these commitments and Traditional Owners’ perspectives on how successfully these commitments are being met.

3. Enhanced governance arrangements in place to oversee the company’s progress against these actions.

4. How the company is working to advocate for enhanced sector-wide cultural heritage management and how this is consistent with Rio Tinto’s internal standards.

Rio Tinto intends to commence with interim reporting in the third quarter of 2021 and thereafter with predominantly annual reporting, coupled with periodic disclosure as appropriate. Further consultation with a broad range of investors and other stakeholders will continue to assist in developing these disclosures over time.

 

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