Rio Tinto has decided to curtail operations at Richards Bay Minerals (RBM) in South Africa to ensure the safety and security of its employees due to an escalation in violence in the communities surrounding the operations. An RBM employee 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. Construction of the Zulti South project has also been temporarily paused.

Chief Executive of Energy and Minerals Bold Baatar said, “The safety of our people is Rio Tinto’s key priority and we have taken decisive action to stop operations to reduce the risk of serious harm to our 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.”

Rio Tinto will contact customers to discuss how to minimize any potential disruptions. Titanium dioxide slag production for 2019 is now expected to be at the bottom end of 2019 guidance of between 1.2 million metric tons (mt) and 1.4 million mt.