Rio Tinto cuts Richards Bay output after security incident

Richards Bay Minerals operation. Image: Rio Tinto.

Rio Tinto will curtail operations at the Richards Bay Minerals mine in South Africa following a security incident.

The company reported that violence has escalated in the communities surrounding the mineral sands operation, resulting in one Richards Bay worker being shot and seriously injured.

There has also been an increase of criminal activity towards Richards Bay employees, according to Rio Tinto.

The company’s smelters are now operating at a reduced level, with only a minimum number of employees on-site.

Rio Tinto has paused construction of the Zulti South project, a $US463 million ($676 million) next-stage development of Richards Bay that will sustain its current capacity and extend mine life.

The company expects its titanium dioxide slag production to be at the bottom end of guidance between 1.2 and 1.4 million tonnes this year.

“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,” Rio Tinto chief executive, energy and minerals, Bold Baatar said.

“Our goal is to return Richards Bay to normal operations in a safe and sustainable way.”

Rio Tinto will discuss with customers on how to minimise potential disruptions.

“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,” Baatar said.

Rio Tinto holds 74 per cent of interest in Richards Bay, with Blue Horison consortium owning 24 per cent. The remaining two per cent are held in an employee trust.

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