Rio Tinto was forced to shut down one of the four furnaces at its Richards Bay Minerals (RBM) operation in South Africa due to depletion of available feedstock at the plant.
The move came as a direct consequence of the recent escalation in the security situation at the operation which significantly hampered the mine’s ability to operate safely and prompted the company to declare force majeure on customer contracts on 30 June 2021.
RBM is one of the largest businesses in KwaZulu-Natal, with a workforce of some 5,000 people and the largest taxpayer in KwaZulu-Natal.
Rio Tinto chief executive Minerals, Sinead Kaufman, said RBM would ‘regularly reassess the situation’ to make further decisions on any potential restart or the shutting of the other furnaces, depending on when the safety and security position improves.
“Shutting a furnace has a major impact on the business and broader community and it not a decision we have taken lightly,” Mr Kaufman said.
“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.
“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.”