Digging into new work at Rio Tinto

02 August, 2017

Small businesses should find it easier to secure work with Rio Tinto from this week, with the mining giant listing the first opportunities on its new online procurement portal.

A key plank in Rio’s commitment to try harder at engaging local suppliers, the website allows businesses to view upcoming work packages in the company’s Pilbara iron ore business and register their interest.

Based on a good turnout on Friday at a procurement workshop in Perth, the last of four held across the State to educate businesses about Rio’s commitment to “go local” whenever possible, businesses are eager to get on board.

About 600 people turned up for the Perth workshop to hear Rio Tinto Iron Ore Chief Executive Chris Salisbury, other Rio officials and suppliers talk about procurement.

Salisbury said he was excited by the level of interest shown in the program by the WA business community, with the company logging almost 1000 workshop participants across the state.

“Our new approach will make it easier for WA businesses to compete for contracts with us as well as with some of our major suppliers, which is why we’re thrilled by today’s turn out,” he said.

“While we already award 77 per cent of our contracts to local suppliers, we want to do more to encourage local businesses to work with us.”

Rio believes the portal will allow small businesses more time to submit competitive bids for future works.

As of Tuesday, the portal had 17 expressions of interest listings, ranging from vessel refurbishment services and minor plant upgrades, to scaffolding provision and vegetation clearing.

Rio Tinto General Manager of Procurement Braam Uys said that suppliers had provided him feedback in the last few weeks on the company’s “lack of transparency”.

“We’ve taken that feedback on board and, by establishing a local procurement team, we will address that. We want it to be easy to do business with Rio Tinto,” he said.

Rio would have a “weighting” for local content in awarding tenders, alongside price, safety and technical capability.

And “all things being equal” preference would be given to Indigenous Pilbara suppliers, followed by Pilbara businesses in general, WA, and then national, he said.

Success stories of existing Rio suppliers were provided by Kulbardi, Wallis Drilling, Brida, Sodexo, Linkforce Engineering and Mineral Resources.

Wallis Drilling Chief Executive Mark Crumby said from his experience, businesses needed efficient internal and external communication systems to succeed as a Rio supplier.

“And deliver good news and bad news in a timely fashion,” he said.

“It is critical that Rio understands what you are doing in business and they hear it first-hand from yourself and not from other sources.”

Crumby unveiled Wallis’ new unmanned drill rig, due to begin operating at Rio’s West Angleas mine site this month.

“The first thing you notice about a new Delta One, an automated reverse circulation drill rig, is there are no people there,” he said.

“We believe it is the most advanced RC drill rig in the world.”

Interested in securing work at Rio Tinto’s iron ore operations? Visit the portal and click on the Expressions of Interest button.

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