UNSW engineering dean Graham Davies said the partnership would enable the university to develop a research, teaching and training effort in the underground and block caving field.
Geotechnical research at the university explores how different ore bodies respond to block caving and to develop improved design and predication methods.
The position was created through Rio's subsidiary Northparkes Mines, owner of an underground copper and gold mine in New South Wales.
Northparkes Mines managing director Craig Stegman said the company was in good stead to work with the university to share its knowledge with future hard rock underground mining and geotechnical engineers.
UNSW School of Mining head Bruce Hebblewhite said the partnership recognised the importance of geotechnical engineering for safe and successful underground mining.
"This is the lowest-cost underground mining method available and is growing rapidly around the world … and there is a significant shortage of people with skills in these areas," Hebblewhite said.
An international search is underway to fill the newly created role.
UNSW told MiningNews.net that Rio would make a financial contribution to the role but declined to specify an amount.
Comment was being sought from Northparkes Mines regarding the financial contribution at the time of going to print.