Rio Tinto has halted mining activities at its South African Richard Bay Minerals unit, as violence in the surrounding communities escalated, leading to an employee being shot recently, company said on Wednesday.
Community protests in the area have been causing disruptions for the Richard Bay unit, situated in the province of KwaZulu-Natal in November-December. In the region, job distribution and contracts associated with RBM’s operations have been an issue, leading to these attacks.
Following the attacks, serious security issues have led to fewer employees reporting to work and smelters running at a reduced capacity.
The violence has also halted Rio Tinto’s Zulti South project, an expansion of Richard Bay unit. The $463mn investment was to sustain current capacity by extending the mine’s life.
Richard Bay’s principal product is titanium dioxide in the form of an 85pc pure titanium dioxide slag. The company also produces the higher-purity 95pc titanium dioxide product, rutile, as well as pig iron and zircon.
Rio Tinto’s outlook for 2019 production of titanium dioxide slag, a mineral used to create white pigment for paint production, is at the bottom end of a previously announced, range-bound, 1.2m and 1.4m tonnes. The company is aiming to return RBM to normal operations in a safe and sustainable way.