Company history

Rio Tinto plc and Rio Tinto Limited operate as a single business entity with the same board of directors, a unified management, and a combined portfolio of mineral resources which is well balanced by both geography and commodity.

This results from the December 1995 unification of The RTZ Corporation PLC and CRA Limited through a dual listed companies (DLC) structure. In June 1997, The RTZ Corporation PLC became Rio Tinto plc and CRA Limited became Rio Tinto Limited.

Rio Tinto plc (then The Rio Tinto-Zinc Corporation) was formed in 1962 by the merger of two British companies, The Rio Tinto Company and The Consolidated Zinc Corporation.

Rio Tinto Limited (then Conzinc Riotinto of Australia) was formed at the same time by the merger of the Australian interests of The Consolidated Zinc Corporation and The Rio Tinto Company.

The Rio Tinto Company was formed in 1873 to mine the ancient copper workings at Rio Tinto in Spain. Two thirds of the Rio Tinto Company's Spanish business were sold in 1954 and the remaining interest was also subsequently divested. The Consolidated Zinc Corporation was incorporated in 1905, initially to treat zinc bearing tailings at Broken Hill in New South Wales, Australia which soon expanded into mining.

Following the 1962 merger, RTZ developed a number of major projects including Palabora (copper) in South Africa, Rössing (uranium) in Namibia, and Neves Corvo (copper and tin) in Portugal. It also grew through acquisitions, including the Borax group in 1968.

Between 1968 and 1985 significant interests in cement, chemicals, oil and gas and manufactured products for the construction and automotive industries were also developed. However, a major review of corporate strategy between 1987 and 1988 led to a series of disposals and acquisitions which refocused the company on mining and related activities.

As a result, between 1988 and 1994 non mining businesses were sold as going concerns, and interests in mining acquired. These included the 1989 acquisition of the major part of British Petroleum's international minerals businesses, and the 1993 acquisition of the Nerco and Cordero coal mining businesses in the US.

In mid 1995 a minority shareholding in Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold was also acquired together with a 40 per cent direct interest in the expansion potential of its Grasberg copper mine in Indonesia.

After 1962, CRA also grew through the development of several important mineral discoveries, including Hamersley (iron ore) in Australia, Bougainville (copper) in Papua New Guinea, Comalco (bauxite, alumina refining and aluminium smelting) in Australia and New Zealand, Argyle (diamonds) and Blair Athol and Tarong (coal) in Australia, and Kelian (gold) and Kaltim Prima (coal) in Indonesia.

Growth also came from acquisitions, including the Australian coal assets of BPAmoco in 1989 and a 70.7 per cent interest in Coal & Allied Industries' New South Wales operations.

Following the DLC merger in 1995, exploration, research and technology have been refocused on a global basis and the management structure reorganised to capture the potential of the merger for the future. Capital expenditure has also been substantial on Rio Tinto's wide range of projects.