a splash of blue water against a yellow background. In the foreground, text reads : Rio Tinto Get Serious About Water

Key points:

  • 23 million people globally suffer from the impacts of existing contamination of  soil and water as a result of mine tailings and mine wastewater.
  • Campaigners and communities from six countries are coming together in London to pressure Rio Tinto to take action on water issues at its 2024 AGM.
  • Case studies show issues with water access, pollution and overuse as well as tailings dam safety and community relations at Rio Tinto mines across the globe. 
  • Rio Tinto’s AGM will be held in London on 4 April 2024.

Press Release:

While Rio Tinto prepares to announce huge profits at its 2024 AGM, activists and community members representing Mongolia, Madagascar, USA, Serbia, Guinea and Bougainville are preparing to tell the company that it’s time to get serious about water.

A set of case studies published on the London Mining Network website details a series of issues around water pollution, lack of transparency around technical issues and escalating conflict among other concerns at specific mine sites in each of the six countries. For years, local communities, traditional owners and civil society organisations have been pressing Rio Tinto to address issues related to water, water contamination, water management, and related mine tailings management around their mine operations, but they have been repeatedly shrugged off.

From the research and development stage through to closure and legacy, Rio Tinto’s mines lack transparency and accountability around water use and water quality.  Whether its drought risks and tailings dam design as in Resolution Copper Arizona, tailings dam failures as at QMM in Madagascar, leaking tailings facilities as in Oyu Tolgoi in Mongolia, pollution around QMM in Madagascar and Oyu Tolgoi in Mongolia, toxic legacies as in Bougainville, and threats to water quality in rivers and lakes for Jadar in Serbia and Simandou in Guinea, no community is free from risks to their precious natural water resources, and to the biodiversity that depends upon it.

Campaigners are calling on Rio Tinto to commit to independent water impact assessments at all of its mine sites where communities have expressed concerns about water impacts or potential water impacts and to provide proper remediation where adverse human rights and environmental impacts are identified. As Rio Tinto faces mounting pressure from investors over these issues and investigation over environmental damages, this coalition says that it’s time for Rio Tinto to start taking action and to start taking water seriously.

Quotes from Campaigners:

“Rio Tinto has yet to demonstrate that its QMM mine is managing its mine tailings and water quality to international standards. Concerns over water contamination remain ongoing, and the company must urgently commit to an independent water impact assessment.”  

Yvonne Orengo, Director, the Andrew Lees Trust (ALT UK)

“Rio Tinto’s Resolution Copper mine proposal in Arizona, USA, would steal water desperately needed for communities and the environment as we face the worst drought we’ve seen in 1,200 years. It’s inappropriate for Rio Tinto to move forward with a proposal that would destroy a sacred recreational and ecological haven, especially without having conducted an independent water assessment. Bottom line: you can’t drink copper!”

Roger Featherstone, Director of the Arizona Mining Reform Coalition. 

“Rio Tinto’s partners have already fouled rivers and farmlands and degraded fish stocks in communities across the country, and their mine threatens the headwaters of the Niger River, a lifeline for millions across five arid West African countries. We’re calling on Rio Tinto to practise radical transparency, disclose and consult on its water management studies and plans at an early stage, and commit to avoiding irreversible impacts on community water supplies.”

Jonathan Kaufman, Executive Director of Advocates for Community Alternatives

“Rio Tinto’s proposed mine in the valley of River Jadar, tributary to the essential water basin of Drina, would endanger a number of documented protected species and habitats. The project is lauded as part of climate change mitigation efforts, yet a mine in Jadar Valley, with associated infrastructure and tailings, would irreparably impact Nature inhabited by many protected species in the region, as well local livelihoods based on long-term sustainable food production. The area is already experiencing higher intensity of floods and droughts due to the effects of climate change.
We pose a question: what will be more valuable, water or lithium? What will be the future for all mankind?”
Zlatko Kokanović, representative of local residents association Ne damo Jadar.


For more background information and context on London Mining Network, contact:

Saul Jones – Communications Coordinator, London Mining Network
Email: saul@londonminingnetwork.org
Phone: 07928 443248

London Mining Network (LMN) is an alliance of human rights, environmental and solidarity groups. We work together to support communities harmed by London-based and financed mining companies.