Rio Tinto moves into cleaner resources to chase electric vehicles – by Kaori Takahashi (June 9, 2018)

Global miner shifts focus to lithium after exit from coal

TOKYO — Anglo-Australian miner Rio Tinto is realigning its business structure in the wake of the global resources boom, after completing its exit from the coal industry earlier this year, with an eye on electric vehicle-related battery materials.

Rio Tinto CEO Jean-Sebastian Jacques, in a wide-ranging interview with Nikkei in Tokyo this week, laid out the company’s focus on new minerals, particularly lithium, technology partnerships in Asia, and divestment in coal.

Rio Tinto is shifting tack to respond to China’s demands, but its own operational needs and relationships with Asian customers are changing. On Thursday, Rio Tinto finalized a joint venture with China Minmetals to explore for minerals in the country.

In Japan, meanwhile, Jacques met with startups in artificial intelligence and satellite imaging for the first time, as the company seeks to accelerate automation and big data analysis.

“We may build some totally different ecosystems with our partners,” Jacques said, adding that artificial intelligence will be “absolutely critical” to the future of mining. The company already uses AI to analyze drill samples in real-time and interpret market movements at the company’s marketing hub in Singapore.

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