Rio Tinto’s South African mining operations to remain inoperative

Rio Tinto’s South African mining operations to remain inoperative

Anglo-Australian metals and mining corporation, Rio Tinto has announced that operations at its Richards Bay Minerals (RBM) project based in South Africa, which had been shut down in June after a top manager was murdered, will remain closed despite talks with the government.

Intensifying acts of violence had compelled the miner to declare a halt on customer contracts at RBM while seeking help from authorities to contain the frenzied community unrests, sources claimed.

The Minerals Council of South Africa had censured the violence and ensuing law enforcement failures and had attempted to intercept the suspension of activities at the minerals project, which employs approximately 5,000 people.

The Council reportedly said that continued acts of lawlessness at mining operations have not only damaged the country’s reputation as an investment avenue but have also impacted the livelihoods of people working in the mining industry, their families, and related communities.

A representative for Rio Tinto was quoted saying that the company is eager to resume operations, but the safety of employees and security of operations must be ensured before such recommencement.

Notably, the KwaZulu Natal province-based RBM sands mine – in which Rio owns a 74% stake– has witnessed several violent incidents over the past few years.

Operations had been suspended twice in 2018 due to violent protests undertaken by contractors, and in 2019, the company was forced to halt all activities after one of its employees was shot.

According to sources, Rio had approved a USD 463 million Zulti South project which aimed at extending the mine life, but the project has been in a state of suspension since 2019 due to unresolved security concerns.

The latest event raises new questions about the normal resumption of activities at Richards Bay, which includes mining, smelting, and refining ore deposits or heavy minerals.

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