Rio Tinto’s Richards Bay Minerals (RBM) operation, located in South Africa, has announced it has shut one of its four furnaces, until further notice, due to the depletion of available feedstock at the plant, as a result of security and safety concerns.

Mining operations were halted following an escalation in the security situation at the mine. The increased security risk has significantly hampered the mines ability to operate safely.

Rio Tinto declared Force Majeure on their customer contracts at RBM on the 30 June 2021.

RBM is one of KwaZulu-Natal significant employees, with a workforce of some 5,000 people as well as being the largest taxpayer in KwaZulu-Natal, the company has contributed R8 billion to the national economy in 2020.

The four furnaces at RBM are dependent on a stockpile of feedstock, which is being steadily depleted. The decision to shut RBM’s furnace will further reduce the call on the stockpile and limit the long-term impacts of a shutdown on the RBM’s furnaces.

Rio Tinto chief executive Minerals, Sinead Kaufman, commented on the situation,

“Shutting a furnace has a major impact on the business and broader community and it not a decision we have taken lightly. However, we will not put production ahead of the safety of our people and there are still fundamental criteria that must be met before we can resume operations in a sustainable manner.”

Sinead Kaufman,Rio Tinto chief executive Minerals

He continued,

“We continue to work with national and provincial governments as well as community structures to find a lasting solution to the current situation so that operations can resume as soon as it is possible to safely do so.”

Sinead Kaufman,Rio Tinto chief executive Minerals

RBM has stated that it will regularly reassess the situation to make further decisions on any potential restart or the shutting of the other furnaces, depending on the changes to the safety and security position.

All operations at RBM remain halted until further notice.

This announcement is authorised for release to the market by Steve Allen, Rio Tinto’s Group Company Secretary.

For more information, visit: