AUSTRALIAN miner rio tinto said yesterday that it expected its titanium dioxide production for 2019 to be at the bottom end of its guidance after the group was forced to curtail operations at its subsidiary, Richards bay Minerals(rbm) due to an escalation in violence in the communities surrounding the operations.
As a result, the group said its titanium dioxide slag production for 2019 was expected to be between 1.2 million and 1.4million tons. Rio tinto owns a 74 percent stake in RBM, with the subsidiary playing a major role in the mining sector in the province.
RBM contributes 5o percent to KwaZulu-Natal’s mining sector by value of output and this represents 3. 3 percent of the national mining sector output.
Rio Tinto said that it had decided to curtail operations to ensure the safety and security of its employees.
Bold baatar, a chief executive of energy and minerals, said the safety of their people was Rio Tinto’s key priority and they had taken decisive action to stop operations to reduce the risk of serious harm to their 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,” Baatar said.
The group added that there had been an escalation of criminal activity towards RMB 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 are operating at a reduced level, with a minimum number of employees now on site,” the group said, adding that construction of the Zulti South project has also been temporarily paused.
Rio tinto said it would contact customers to discuss how to minimise any potential disruptions.
In April, Rio Tinto approved a S463 million(R6.76 billion) investment for the next stage in the development of RBM through the construction of the Zulti South project. The S463m investment, in which Rio tinto had a share of S343m, was expected to sus tain RBMs current capacity and extend mine life
RBM is not the only miner to suffer disruptions to its operations in 2019.
In July Pan African Resources also experienced some criminal elements, which disrupted its production in its Barberton Gold Mines.