Skip to main content

Advertisement

Table 2 Summary Rio Tinto’s impacts on social determinants of health and equity in Australia and Southern Africa

From: The health impacts of extractive industry transnational corporations: a study of Rio Tinto in Australia and Southern Africa

CHIA domain Positive aspects Negative aspects
Political and business practices Supply chain management Requirements imposed by Rio Tinto on its global supply chain are likely to have positive health impacts for workers Political lobbying Membership of representative organisations to influence public policy in ways unfavourable to health equity, while protecting corporate image
Workforce and working conditions Provision of direct employment under decent working conditions Low, and falling rates of illness and injury for direct employees A global ‘whistleblower’ program is available to workers and all stakeholders [stet]: Australia has a high proportion of Rio Tinto’s global workforce, with an inclusive approach for Indigenous and female workers. Southern Africa: Richards Bay Minerals is a major South African employer. Increase in precarious, lower-paid working conditions due to practices of contracting labour through third-party organisations Legal responsibility for workers is reduced Adverse health impacts on contract workers not ‘visible’ in corporate reporting mechanisms. Increased worker incentives to work unsafely Complex corporate structure may impede union efforts to mediate negative working conditions. Australia: Most Australian workers are contracted through labour hire organisations. FIFO operations may have negative impacts on health and well-being Southern Africa: Contract workers lack the benefits of direct employees. Relatively worse working conditions for contracted workers in Southern Africa likely to have worse health impacts than for contracted workers in Australia, eg occupational injury rates. Recourse to legal measures to seek compensation for adverse impacts weaker than in Southern Africa
Social conditions Rio Tinto provides some benefits to affected communities Australia: Increased local Aboriginal participation in the Rio Tinto workforce Southern Africa: Richards Bay Minerals supports infrastructure, local procurement, skills and enterprise development, and joint ventures to facilitate skills transfer. The Rössing Foundation undertakes a broad range of community development activities. Rio Tinto operations impact negatively in mining localities Australia: Relatively high miners’ wages can increase prices for goods and services in local communities. Negative community impacts from noise and air pollution from coal mining Psychological distress resulting from social disruption and environmental damage. Southern Africa: Migrant workers disrupt communities in vicinity of mining operations
Environmental conditions Commitment to upholding sustainable development principles Rio Tinto signed up to International Council on Mining and Metals principles for sustainable development Disclosures under the Global Reporting Index may support the Paris Agreement to reduce global warming Australia: Commitment made to progressively return the area of the Ranger Uranium mine to a viable ecosystem under government supervision. Southern AfricaRichards Bay Minerals monitors emissions for air quality. Rossing Uranium monitors dust levels on site and in nearby town. Environmental risk to health and lack of remediation Failure to remediate large final voids leaves a negative environmental legacy. Divestment may result in avoidance of responsibility for site remediation or adverse impacts of environmental damage Australia: Aboriginal community concerns over negative impacts from spills, and breaches of licence conditions at the Ranger uranium mine. Southern AfricaWorkers at Rossing exposed to dust and radon gas. Air pollution, biodiversity loss and soil contamination at Richards Bay Minerals
Economic conditions Contribution to national and local economies Rio Tinto’s direct global economic contribution is made through payments to workers, suppliers, governments and community development programs. Australia: A high proportion of global taxation is paid in Australia Southern Africa: Richards Bay Minerals is the largest taxpayer in KwaZuluNatal. Business strategies impact on revenue for social investment Profit shifting and/or tax reduction strategies reduce government revenues available for health and social investment. Economic costs of damage to environments and/or health are externalised to states and communities. Australia: Lobbying by the mining industry against the ‘mining tax’ and for fuel subsidies results in loss of government revenue available for public good purposes.