Thursday, August 13, 2009

Rio Tinto Aboriginal Relations

Rio Tinto's policy worldwide is to recognise and work with local and land connected peoples in the planning of its operations. In 1995, the Group embarked on a strategy of working in active partnership with Indigenous people in Australia. Also in 1995 Rio Tinto developed its Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Policy. The policy is based on recognition and respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. In addition to the Rio Tinto Aboriginal Fund, the policy is implemented through three other platforms: community capacity building; cultural heritage recognition and protection; and regional development and land access agreements.
COMMUNITY CAPACITY BUILDING Rio Tinto promotes the idea of robust regional economies, whereby both local communities and a Rio Tinto business work together to build on, and benefit from, the economic opportunities generated by the presence of the mining operation. Rio Tinto delivers programmes for community capacity building in the areas of employment, education and training, and enterprise facilitation.
CULTURAL HERITAGE PROTECTION Rio Tinto recognises and respects the significance of the cultural heritage of Indigenous people who have traditional ownership of, or historical connections to, the land on which Rio Tinto businesses operate. Rio Tinto requires each of its businesses to develop a cultural heritage management system to ensure a consistently high standard of cultural heritage protection. These systems do not compromise the ability of Aboriginal community groups to manage their own cultural heritage. Rio Tinto aims to have heritage processes agreed between its businesses and relevant Aboriginal groups in legally binding land access agreements.
REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT AND LAND ACCESS AGREEMENTS Rio Tinto establishes agreements with Aboriginal traditional owners and groups affected by its operations to gain access for exploration (land access agreements) and to develop mining operations (mine regional development agreements). Rio Tinto's policy of increasing opportunities for Indigenous Australians is reflected in its agreement making. Rio Tinto has a preference for progressing agreements to full Indigenous Land Use Agreements

The Rio Tinto Aboriginal Fund was established in 1996 as part of Rio Tinto's strategy of working in active partnership with Aboriginal people in Australia. The Fund is one of the ways Rio Tinto supports and engages with Aboriginal people. By predominantly concentrating on Aboriginal people and communities not directly affected by mining or exploration, the RTAF's activities complement the community capacity building work undertaken by the Rio Tinto business units in their regions.

The Rio Tinto Aboriginal Fund seeks to improve the status and build the capacity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities, predominantly through establishing and supporting programmes that deliver sustainable benefits to social wellbeing and economic participation.

The Fund supports initiatives across Australia, essentially in the areas of health, education, youth and leadership, social justice, and cultural celebration. Supported initiatives range widely in size, scope, location and timeframe. Programmes which are initiated by a community or community organisation are particularly valued.

The Fund operates independently of Rio Tinto and currently distributes A$1.8 million annually. Operational costs relating to the Fund are met separately by Rio Tinto. Since the Rio Tinto Aboriginal Fund was established in 1996, it has supported a large number of projects throughout Australia and has provided over A$15.3 million in funding.

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