MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Rio Tinto's commitment to Indigenous issues questioned

Published by MAC on 2005-06-01

Rio Tinto's commitment to Indigenous issues questioned

ABC News

1st June 2005

Aborigines in the Pilbara, in north-west Western Australia, have called on mining company Rio Tinto to improve its business standards in its dealings with Indigenous traditional owners.

The call was made at a meeting of about 800 Aborigines to discuss impacts on the land from the region's current resources boom.

Simon Hawkins from the Pilbara Native Title Service says they feel Rio is not genuinely engaging with Indigenous people in its native title negotiations.

Mr Hawkins says they understand the company has no legal obligation to consult on mining operations established before the Native Title Act, but says they should do so as part of good business practice.

"From the traditional owners' viewpoint they were concerned that Rio Tinto haven't taken on board their moral responsibility to deal with the issues of properly negotiating with people. They feel that the proposed level of negotiation offered by Rio is somewhat less than other agreements made elsewhere in Australia," he said.

Rio Tinto general manager Bruce Larson says he is very disappointed in the land council's claims.

Mr Larson says Rio is proud of the way in which the company communicates with the Indigenous people and has questioned other claims by the council that they have failed to return their profits to the community.

"[We provide] training and employment, education programs, contracting opportunities, business opportunities, cadetships, apprenticeships, traineeships and the like as well as the extensive protection of cultural and heritage programs," he said.

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