Each mining company has its own story of organisational learning in community engagement. Rio Tinto’s has been a journey of change throughout several decades to reach its current position on community agreements. It’s a position that aligns with the company’s code of conduct, The way we work, and demonstrates Rio Tinto’s understanding of the breadth and impact of agreements. Like all resource companies, Rio Tinto has an interest in land. The company’s role as a developer is to facilitate the transformation of orebodies and resources into a social or economic benefit for shareholders, governments and host communities. Gaining access to land marks the beginning of the company’s operational capacity, however it also needs the social licence to operate that comes from a basis of mutual trust between Rio Tinto and its host communities. Land can be associated with significant historical and cultural heritage. It can be the subject of pre-existing conflict with a range of competing land uses and have inherent environmental values which need to be protected. All of these factors shape people’s views about the value of land and how it should be used. As a result, Rio Tinto operates in a complex environment where clashes can occur – the consequences of which can have a significant impact on the company’s operations. It’s a consequence that many mining companies, including Rio Tinto, did not fully appreciate until the late 1980s. Rio Tinto’s understanding of how land can be used for both economic and social benefit has evolved significantly in recent decades. As a business, Rio Tinto now understands the aim of agreement-making is two-fold. Agreements facilitate Rio Tinto’s access to land, approvals and permits, paving the way for our continued presence in host communities. Agreements also enable the benefits of resource development to be shared among the communities connected to the land over the long term. Being accountable through agreement processes has taught Rio Tinto to see communities, land and resources differently. Agreements have shown the company there is a way to work through issues so that Rio Tinto no longer finds itself at odds with people. This stability is critical to building and maintaining a secure future for the company’s operations. Understanding the history of agreements in Rio Tinto assists in understanding why agreements matter today, and will remain important in the future.
To capture agreement experience and promote good practice concepts and approaches, this guide has been reviewed by two groups - a group of Rio Tinto reviewers from different departments and geographical locations, and an external review panel of experts in agreement-making.
Everingham, J.-A., Kemp, D., Brereton, D., Parmenter, J., Harvey, B., Langton, M., Gawler, J., Reark , J., Cornish, G. & Ali, S. (2016). Why agreements matter. Melbourne: Rio Tinto.