Rio Tinto has decided to curtail operations at Richards Bay Minerals (RBM) in South Africa to ensure the safety and security of its employees due to an escalation in violence in the communities surrounding the operations.
RBM is South Africa’s largest mineral sands producer and beneficiation company. It produces predominantly rutile, zircon, titania slag and high purity iron.
Rio Tinto noted that there has been an escalation of criminal activity towards RBM employees and one was shot and seriously injured in the last few days.
As a result, all mining operations at RBM have been halted and the smelters will be operating at a reduced level, with a minimum number of employees now on-site. Construction of the Zulti South project has also been temporarily paused.
Bold Baatar, chief executive, Energy & Minerals said, “The safety of our people is Rio Tinto’s key priority and we have taken decisive action to stop operations to reduce the risk of serious harm to our team members”.
“We are in discussions with the local communities, regional and national governments, and the police in order to find a way to address the safety and security issues. Our goal is to return RBM to normal operations in a safe and sustainable way. We would like to acknowledge and thank the police and authorities for their support.”
Rio Tinto plans to contact customers to discuss how to minimise any potential disruptions.
Titanium dioxide slag production for 2019 is now expected to be at the bottom end of 2019 guidance of between 1.2 and 1.4 million tonnes.