Last month, Rio Tinto’s Chief Executive Sam Walsh visited the company’s birthplace in southern Spain, commemorating the employees who helped build the foundations of the company more than a century ago. He also pledged Rio Tinto’s support for restoration work on a part of the company’s heritage in the region.The roots of the organisation date back to 1873, when a group of British and European investors formed The Rio Tinto Co to reopen ancient copper mines in the town of Minas de Riotinto, in Spain’s Huelva province. Rio Tinto eventually divested its Spanish interests, but for many years, the Huelva operations were the heart of the company, and the world’s leading producer of copper.Among the reminders of Rio Tinto’s time in Spain are the British Protestant Cemetery built by the company in 1879, and a memorial that the company constructed to honour its employees who lost their lives in World War I.During his visit, Walsh told Minas de Riotinto’s Mayor Rosa Caballero that the company would contribute €20,000 over three years towards restoration work needed on the cemetery.He also thanked Mayor Caballero for laying the wreath that the company sent in November 2014, to mark the centenary of the start of World War I and pay its respects to the employees who died in the conflict.“Rio Tinto is an international mining business with operations in more than 40 countries and we have a long and proud history stretching back more than 140 years,” said Walsh. “I respect our company’s heritage and, while we are no longer there, our commencement at Minas de Riotinto back in 1873 represents an important part of our story.“It was a privilege to have the opportunity to see first-hand the birthplace of our company and to better understand the rich history behind our business.“I was delighted to announce Rio Tinto will be helping to support the restoration of the cemetery and look forward to seeing the project progress. The Mayor of Minas de Riotinto told me it is an important project for the local community and we are pleased to be able to make this contribution.”Sam also spent time exploring Rio Tinto’s extensive historical archives and the town’s mining museum – which he declared one of the best he had ever visited. He also inspected the Cora Atalya (old pit), travelled on the restored locomotives and carriages of the mining railway, and toured the town’s English quarter, where houses were modelled after those from Victorian Britain, and were home to expatriate company executives.