Sustainable development

2012 was an extremely challenging year for the Australian coal industry, which struggled to remain globally competitive in the face of lower coal prices, a strong Australian dollar and high input costs.

Rio Tinto Coal Australia's focus was to improve competitiveness of its operations, taking action on numerous fronts to improve productivity by boosting the output from the business and reducing costs. Strengthening the long term viability of our operations will also help to ensure the communities around us will continue to share in the value mining creates into the future.

It was pleasing to see our safety performance improved once again in 2012, following a slight drop in 2011. A highlight for the year was the naming of Mount Thorley Warkworth as joint winner of the Rio Tinto Chief Executive Safety Award. Our aim is to see all employees and contractors go home safely at the end of each day and we are working to drive continued improvement in this area.

In response to increased community concern regarding impacts from mining in the Hunter Valley, Rio Tinto Coal Australia has made significant improvements to both operational management and rehabilitation practices. Key initiatives include purchasing noise-attenuated heavy mobile equipment and retrofitting existing fleet, and the use of real-time monitoring to modify operations in response to environmental conditions. We recognise the need for ongoing engagement with community members about their concerns and for continued improvements in our management practices.

The future will continue to bring more highlights and challenges for our business. Through them all, promoting sustainable practice and ensuring we make a valued contribution as a member of the community will continue to make good business sense. We will remain committed to balancing social, environmental and economic considerations in our operations and decision making.

Darren Yeates
Acting managing director