Since antiquity, a site along the Rio Tinto, in the Andalusian province of Huelva in Spain has been mined for copper, silver, gold, and other minerals. Around 3000 BC, Iberians and Tartessians began mining the site, followed by the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Visigoths, and Moors. After a period of abandonment, the mines were rediscovered in 1556 and the Spanish government began operating them once again in 1724.
However, Spain's mining operations there were inefficient, and the government itself was otherwise distracted by political and financial crises, leading the government to sell the mines in 1873 at a price later determined to be well below actual value. The purchasers of the mine were led by Hugh Matheson's Matheson and Company, which ultimately formed a syndicate consisting of Deutsche Bank (56% ownership), Matheson (24%), and the civil engineering firm Clark, Punchard and Company (20%). At an auction held by the Spanish government to sell the mine on 14 February 1873, the group won with a bid of GB£3,680,000 (ESP 92,800,000). The bid also specified that Spain would permanently relinquish any right to claim royalties on the mine's production. Following purchase of the mine, the syndicate launched the Rio Tinto Company, registering it on 29 March 1873. At the end of the 1880s, control of the firm passed to the Rothschild family, who greatly increased the scale of its mining operations.
Following their purchase of the Rio Tinto Mine, the new ownership constructed a number of new processing facilities, innovated new mining techniques, and expanded mining activities.
From 1877 to 1891, the Rio Tinto Mine was the world's leading producer of copper.[1
From 1870 through 1925, the company was inwardly focused on fully exploiting the Rio Tinto Mine, with little attention paid to expansion or exploration activities outside of Spain. The company enjoyed strong financial success until 1914, colluding with other pyrite producers to control market prices. However, World War I and its aftermath effectively eliminated the United States as a viable market for European pyrites, leading to a decline in the firm's prominence.
The company's failure to diversify during this period led to the slow decline of the company among the ranks of international mining firms. However, this changed in 1925, when Sir Auckland Geddes succeeded Lord Alfred Milner as chairman. Geddes and the new management team he installed focused on diversification of the company's investment strategy and the introduction of organizational and marketing reforms. Geddes led the company into a series of joint ventures with customers in the development of new technologies, as well as exploration and development of new mines outside of Spain. Between 1925 and 1931, Geddes recruited two directors: JN Buchanan (finance director) and RM Preston (commercial director), as well as other executives involved with technical and other matters.
Perhaps most significant was the company's investment in copper mines in Northern Rhodesia, later Zambia, which it eventually consolidated into the Rhokana Corporation. These and later efforts at diversification eventually allowed the company to divest from the Rio Tinto mine in Spain. By the 1950s, Franco's nationalistic government had made it increasingly difficult to exploit Spanish resources for the profit of foreigners. Rio Tinto Company, supported by its international investments, was able to divest two-thirds of its Spanish operations in 1954 and the remainder over the following years.
The company's first major acquisition occurred in 1929, when the company issued stock for the purpose of raising 2.5 million pounds to invest in Northern Rhodesian copper mining companies, which was fully invested by the end of 1930. The Rio Tinto company consolidated its holdings of these various firms under the Rhokana Corporation by forcing the various companies to merge.
Rio Tinto's investment in Rhodesian copper mines did much to support the company through troubled times at its Spanish Rio Tinto operations spanning the Spanish Civil War, World War II, and Franco's nationalistic policies. In the 1950s, the political situation made it increasingly difficult for mostly British and French owners to extract profits from Spanish operations, and the company decided to dispose of the mines from which it took its name. Thus, in 1954, Rio Tinto Company sold two-thirds of its stake in the Rio Tinto mines, disposing of the rest over the following years. The sale of the mines financed extensive exploration activities over the following decade.
Board of Directors
Simon Thompson, chairman
Jean-Sébastien Jacques, chief executive officer
Jakob Stausholm, chief financial officer
David Constable 
Megan Clark AC 
Ann Godbehere 
Simon Henry 
Sam Laidlaw 
Michael L'Estrange AO
According to The Guardian, Rio Tinto is one of the top 100 industrial greenhouse gas producers in the world, accounting for 0.75 percent of global industrial greenhouse gas emissions between 1988 and 2015. In 2016, Rio Tinto estimated to have produced 32 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in its own climate change report.
In March 2018, Rio Tinto was urged by institutional investors to set new rules requiring the company to adhere to the goals of the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, including detailed plans to reduce scope 1 to 3 emissions. Rio Tinto's top executives rejected the resolution, arguing that the company had made a lot of progress in reducing its greenhouse gas emissions and that appropriate plans were in place to deal with climate change.
Rio also argued that that scope 3 emissions, those of its customers, were beyond the firm's control. Nevertheless, the corporation in September 2019 signed a partnership with Chinese steelmaker China Baowu Steel Group to find ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from steel making, in an attempt to tackle the scope 3 issue.
Labour and human rights
Activist groups have also expressed concern regarding Rio Tinto's operations in Papua New Guinea, which they allege were one catalyst of the Bougainville separatist crisis. The British antipoverty charity War on Want has also criticised Rio Tinto for its complicity in the serious human rights violations which have occurred near the mines it operates in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.
On 31 January 2010, Rio Tinto locked out nearly 600 workers from a mine in Boron, California, USA.
Rio Tinto was also accused of planning and funding the murder of RTI activist Shehla Masood in Bhopal, India. Apparently, she was protesting illegal diamond mining done by Rio Tinto in connivance with government officers. The case was, however, solved and no connection to Rio Tinto was established, though popular opinion still perceives them as the possible culprit.