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The major miner has published a report based on a global audit of its Cultural Heritage Management compliance and performance.

The major miner has published a report based on a global audit of its Cultural Heritage Management compliance and performance, identifying where it has succeeded, and where improvements are needed.

ERM, a global sustainability consultancy, audited 37 of Rio Tinto’s assets during 2021–2022, including 20 Australian assets and 17 international assets.

ERM followed a multi-step approach, which included:

  • A desktop review of documentation provided as evidence by Rio Tinto
  • A series of interviews with employees and leaders with a focus on roles in managing cultural heritage
  • Views and feedback from community partners
  • Follow-up interviews to address gaps
  • A presentation of the findings to asset leadership
  • Presentation of asset audit reports
  • Presentation of the final independent report.

The independent audit was commissioned in response to the findings from the Rio Tinto Board Review of Cultural Heritage Management following the destruction of the sacred rock shelters at Juukan Gorge in May 2020.

“We have been working to strengthen and improve our approach to cultural heritage and community relations,” Rio Tinto chief executive, Australia, Kellie Parker said.

“Our immediate focus was in Australia following Juukan Gorge before steadily expanding across our global operations.

“The report highlights some good progress, in particular in Australia, where we started. We know we have more work to do and the report gives us areas for further improvement across our global operations, and we will adopt all of its recommendations.

“I want to thank everyone who contributed to this important process, in particular our global community partners who our dedicated teams engage with daily to ensure heritage is always managed, protected and celebrated.”

Focus areas will continue to be:

  • Embedding understanding and respect for heritage across Rio’s workforce to ensure lasting outcomes for Indigenous peoples and communities that hold rights and knowledge over heritage
  • Providing global assets with ready access to regional-specific and internal cultural heritage expertise
  • Ensuring Rio’s cultural heritage management plans are co-designed, embedded, understood and managed through a global heritage management maturity framework
  • Elevating the cultural values of water to ensure effective management alongside safety and production
  • Embedding a sustained focus on engagement throughout the life of operations to better protect and conserve cultural heritage.

“While examples of good cultural heritage practice were found, there are further improvements that are required to meet their internal standards and ensure all assets have appropriate foundations, underpinned by the principles of co-design,” ERM consulting director (cultural heritage) Stefani Eagle said.