Violent protests shut down key Rio Tinto mine in SA


Violent protests, typically characterised by lethal shootings and barricades of burning tires, are making it tougher for the world’s greatest mining firms to function in South Africa.

Rio Tinto Group shuttered its Richards Bay Minerals unit on Wednesday and paused a $463 million enlargement undertaking amid escalating violence in surrounding communities that led to an worker being shot and injured. The stoppage will additional sap investor sentiment in a rustic the place enterprise confidence is close to the bottom stage in twenty years.

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Learn: Rio Tinto shuts SA mine, expansion over violence

The freezing of the Zulti South undertaking comes as President Cyril Ramaphosa battles to stimulate progress and retain the nation’s final investment-grade credit standing. South Africa’s economic system contracted for a second quarter this yr within the three months by way of September as farming, mining and manufacturing unit output slumped.

Learn: Fourth GDP contraction under Ramaphosa’s watch

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The choice to halt operations was preceded by weeks of neighborhood protests within the space across the mine, inflicting “on-and-off disruptions,” mentioned RBM Managing Director Werner Duvenhage. The demonstrations aren’t associated to the corporate, however endanger workers’ lives and require authorities intervention, he mentioned.

Losses will probably be “vital,” in line with Duvenhage, who mentioned he doesn’t know when RBM will resume operations.

Neighborhood disruptions round mines are main to large losses for producers, Anglo American Platinum Chief Government Officer Chris Griffith mentioned in October. Many protests relate to the availability of municipal providers and housing, whereas some communities additionally complain they get few advantages from mines, whilst their lives are disrupted by relocations and air pollution.

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Crime wave

South Africa has additionally been suffering from xenophobic assaults and violence in opposition to ladies. Whereas Ramaphosa has made combating crime a high precedence since taking workplace, the variety of murders climbed to the best stage in a minimum of a decade within the 12 months by way of March.

Smelters on the web site within the KwaZulu-Natal province are working at a decreased stage after an escalation of felony exercise directed at workers, London-based Rio mentioned Wednesday in an announcement.

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Rio shares had been little modified in London buying and selling.

Output for 2019 is predicted to be on the low finish of a steering vary of 1.2 million to 1.four million tons and Rio is contacting clients to minimise disruptions. RBM employs about 5 000 workers and contractors, and exports titanium dioxide slag, used to create substances for merchandise together with paint, plastics, sunscreen and toothpaste.

“We now have taken decisive motion to cease operations to scale back the danger of significant hurt to our workforce members,” Daring Baatar, Rio’s CEO for power & minerals, mentioned within the assertion.

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