Rio Tinto’s Richards Bay Minerals (RBM) operation in South Africa will shut one of its four furnaces owing to the depletion of available feedstock at the plant.
This is the result of mining operations being halted following an escalation in the security situation at the operations which significantly hampered the mine’s ability to operate safely.
Rio Tinto declared force majeure on its customer contracts at RBM on June 30.
The four furnaces at RBM are dependent on a stockpile of feedstock, which is being steadily depleted.
RBM’s decision to shut one furnace will reduce the call on the stockpile and limit the long-term impacts of a shutdown on the RBM’s furnaces, the company said on July 21.
Rio Tinto minerals CE Sinead Kaufman said that shutting a furnace “has a major impact on the business and broader community and is not a decision we have taken lightly”.
However, Rio Tinto advised that it would not put production ahead of the safety of its people and that there are still fundamental criteria that must be met before it 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,” Kaufman said.
RBM will 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.
RBM is one of the largest businesses in KwaZulu-Natal, with a workforce of about 5 000 people.
The company contributed R8-billion to the national economy in 2020.
All operations at RBM remain halted until further notice.