On December 30, Rio Tinto started the process of resuming operations at Richards Bay Minerals (RBM) in South Africa. This follows discussions led by Premier of KwaZulu-Natal Sihle Zikalala involving all stakeholders focused on securing stability in order to address the issues in the community and provide the stable environment necessary for RBM to resume operations, according to Rio Tinto.

A phased restart is now in progress, with RBM expected to return to full operations in early January, leading to regular production in early 2020.

Rio Tinto decided to curtail operations earlier this month due to increased violence in the communities surrounding the operations. This included an RBM employee who was shot and seriously injured. Mining operations were halted, smelters began operating at a reduced level, and construction at the Zulti South projected was paused.

Rio Tinto is currently contacting customers that the force majeure has been lifted. Rio Tinto said it will review the restart of the Zulti South project after normalization of operations at RBM.

Chief Executive of Energy and Minerals Bold Baatar said, “The safety and security of our people is always our first priority and we are pleased that we will now be able to get back to work creating value for our people, our communities, South Africa and RBM’s shareholders. I would like to thank the government of South Africa and the Premier of KwaZulu-Natal for their support and assistance in getting us to a position where we can restart operations at RBM. I would also acknowledge the work of community leaders and the police over the previous few weeks.”

According to Rio Tinto, titanium dioxide slag production for 2019 is now expected to be at the bottom end of 2019 guidance of between 1.2 million and 1.4 million metric tons.