Mining giant Rio Tinto has marked its biggest ever spend with Aboriginal businesses after a 40 per cent increase on its Indigenous procurement. The company revealed it spent $400 million with 119 Indigenous-owned businesses in Australia last year. In WA, $300m was spent with 64 Indigenous business in 2021, an increase of 34.4 per cent from the prior year, after the miner moved its global head of procurement role from Singapore to WA last year. The contracts covered work in construction, facilities and site management, civil and earthworks, advertising and marketing, transport, training, catering, equipment supply, cultural port and medical services. Aboriginal-owned earthworks company Hicks Civil and Mining was recently awarded a contract at Rio Tinto’s Yandicoogina operations for ongoing maintenance and essential site services. Hicks Civil and Mining director Caitlin Hicks-Forshaw said the contract offered them stability and continuity of work in the Pilbara region. “We’ve got a big presence here in the Pilbara because our entire business is based here. Because we have performed quite well on our projects with Rio, those good news stories have flowed onto the other clients,” she said. “The next five-year business plan is to push into more projects in that $20m major earthworks project range and eventually grow both our Hedland and Karratha depos and teams. “Now that we’re getting more continuity with our work, we’re definitely looking at those options to be able to support and bring on apprentices.” The Karratha-based company has delivered more than $26m of works to major mining companies in the Pilbara over the last three years. Rio Tinto global procurement vice president Simon Richmond said 2021 marked the company’s largest ever spend with Australian Indigenous businesses, adding the plan was to support more in 2022 and beyond. “The communities where we live and work are very important to Rio Tinto and we are committed to making a positive impact by partnering where we can with local and Indigenous businesses and buying local,” he said.