Diversified miner 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.

It said that there has been an escalation of criminal activity towards RBM employees; where one was shot and seriously injured over 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.

Bold Baatar, CE for Energy & Minerals, 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.

He added that the company is 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. We would like to acknowledge and thank the police and authorities for their support.”

Rio Tinto said in a statement that it will contact customers to discuss how to minimise 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 and 1.4 million tonnes.

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