Diplomatic tensions between China and Australia have flared after Rio Tinto executives were detained in Shanghai, accused of spying and stealing Chinese state secrets.
MINING DAILY contacted Rio Tinto this morning for an update on the detained employees.
According to a spokesperson for the company, Chinese agencies have not made contact with Rio Tinto to discuss allegations against the workers as of last night.
“Rio Tinto has been advised by the Australian Government of this surprising allegation,” Rio Tinto said in a statement released last night.
“We are not aware of any evidence that would support such an investigation.”
The Department of Foreign Affairs yesterday upgraded its travel advice to China as part of its regular review.
The Department advises, “There has been an increase in the number of incidents in which Australians and other foreigners… have been held against their will at their work place.”
“Australians in China who find themselves in a business or civil dispute may be prevented by authorities from leaving the country until the matter is resolved.”
The 2009-10 financial year recently opened without a bench mark iron ore agreement with Chinese customers for the first time in more than 40 years.
Iron ore benchmark prices were expected to be finalised with Chinese steel mills by June 30 following a three-month extension to the April 01 deadline as China pushed for a 40% price cut.
However, no deal has been reached with the China Iron and Steel Association (CISA).
Reports have emerged in the last week that CISA is considering backing down on their call for a 40% price cut, and is now considering a cut of 33% in line with Japanese and Korean steel mills.
In accordance with a consular agreement that Australia has with China, consular access to detained Rio Tinto employee, Mr Stern Hu, is required to be given by Friday 11 July.