Rio Tinto’s Mines Hit By Covid-19 Restrictions – by Rhiannon Hoyle (Wall Street Journal – July 16, 2021)

https://www.wsj.com/

SYDNEY— Rio Tinto PLC said pandemic-related restrictions are affecting its mining operations from Australia to Mongolia, slowing iron-ore shipments, raising production costs and delaying projects.

The disruptions come as governments around the world grapple with the impact of higher commodity prices as the global economy bounces back from Covid-19 and spending on infrastructure rises. Several countries in South America and Europe have recently raised interest rates to counter inflation concerns.

Rio Tinto is the world’s second-largest mining company by market value, behind BHP Group Ltd. , and is a major supplier of commodities to countries including China and the U.S.

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WA must toughen laws after revelation Rio Tinto dumped priceless Indigenous artefacts, heritage expert says – by Lornea Allam (The Guardian – June 27, 2021)

https://www.theguardian.com/

One of Western Australia’s leading heritage experts says the government must toughen up its heritage laws in the wake of allegations that mining giant Rio Tinto allowed the dumping of priceless Aboriginal cultural materials and did not inform the traditional owners for 25 years.

Peter Veth, a senior archaeologist and heritage commentator who was involved in surveying of the artefacts, said new laws must ensure such a “traumatic” mistake cannot happen again.

“The state has to show leadership. It’s a really tough portfolio. It’s big money. And if they can’t get the compliance right in an area worth tens of billions of dollars – and of the Pilbara, which is one of the great heritage estates in the world – then we’re not a modern state. We’re locked in the 50s,” said Veth, a professor at the University of Western Australia.

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Australia’s Mining Hub Needs Workers for Boom Times – by James Thornhill (Bloomberg News – June 20, 2021)

https://www.bnnbloomberg.ca/

(Bloomberg) — Some A$140 billion ($105 billion) in projects in Western Australia’s resources sector may not be fully realized unless the state addresses a chronic shortage in skilled workers, according to a industry group.

From electricians to metallurgists, the industry needs to attract up to 40,000 extra workers over the next two years, according to the report from consultancy Pit Crew, commissioned by WA’s Chamber of Minerals and Energy. The CME called on industry and government to collaborate on ways to combat the shortages.

Rio Tinto Group in its March quarter production report said labor resource availability had disrupted its maintenance work in the state, while Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. reported in May that labor constraints had contributed to rising costs at its Iron Bridge growth project in the Pilbara.

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Reformed iron ore miners tipped to pay $65b dividend – by Peter Ker (Australian Financial Review – May 12, 2021)

https://www.afr.com/

Rio Tinto and BHP are tipped to pass 95 per cent of the iron ore boom back to shareholders through dividends, as Anglo American and Hong Kong’s Cheung Kong became the lastest multinationals to flirt with the idea of building a new iron ore province in Australia’s mid-west.

Iron ore prices have surged 20 per cent above the 2011 record over the past fortnight and are dragging Australia’s biggest exporter, Rio, into a net cash position just 13 years after it was crippled with debt on the back of the disastrous $US38 billion Alcan acquisition.

Shareholder returns from Rio, BHP and Fortescue will be far more generous than in 2011, when the three miners had big plans to spend on growth and were carrying much bigger debt loads.

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Rio Tinto shareholders rebel against ex-chief executive’s £7.2m bonus – by Jillian Ambrose (The Guardian – May 6, 2021)

https://www.theguardian.com/

Rio Tinto’s shareholders have rebelled against the board’s decision to pay its outgoing chief executive his biggest ever pay packet despite overseeing the destruction of the sacred 46,000-year-old rock shelters at Juukan Gorge in Western Australia.

Shareholders voted 61% against the miner’s remuneration policy, which handed a £7.2m pay packet to the disgraced former chief executive Jean-Sébastien Jacques for last year, a 20% rise on his total pay the year before, despite the Juukan Gorge scandal.

Jacques agreed to step down from the mining company “by mutual agreement” with Rio Tinto’s board last year after the miner blew up ancient rock shelters, which were highly significant to the area’s traditional owners, Indigenous Australians, so that it could mine better quality iron ore.

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Arizona mining fight pits economy, EVs against conservation, culture – by Ernest Scheyder (Reuters – April 19, 2021)

https://www.reuters.com/

Early last year, Darrin Lewis paid $800,000 for a hardware store in a tiny Arizona town where mining giant Rio Tinto Plc (RIO.L) hopes to build one of the world’s largest underground copper mines.

Rio buys materials from Lewis’s Superior Hardware & Lumber for its Resolution mine site, accounting for a third of the store’s sales and helping to keep it afloat during the coronavirus pandemic.

But U.S. President Joe Biden put the mining project on hold last month in response to the concerns of Native Americans who say it will destroy sacred land and of environmentalists who worry it will gobble up water in a drought-stricken state.

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Rio Tinto produces battery grade lithium in the US – by Cecilia Jamasmie (Mining.com – April 7, 2021)

https://www.mining.com/

Rio Tinto (ASX, LON, NYSE: RIO) has kicked off lithium production from waste rock at a plant located at a borates mine it controls in California.

The demonstration facility is the next step in scaling up a breakthrough lithium production process developed at the Boron mine. The method allows Rio Tinto to recover the critical mineral and extract additional value out of waste piles from over 90 years of mining at the operation.

An initial small-scale trial in 2019 successfully proved the process of roasting and leaching waste rock to recover high grades of the metal, vital in the production of batteries that power electric vehicles (EVs) and most high tech electronics.

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Class action against Rio Tinto over Oyu Tolgoi escalates – by Cecilia Jamasmie (Mining.com – March 25, 2021)

https://www.mining.com/

A new claim filed in a US court on Thursday over Rio Tinto’s (ASX, LON, NYSE: RIO) handling of the Oyu Tolgoi copper-gold mine expansion in Mongolia accuses the mining giant of concealing the real cause of the delays that have held back its most important growth project.

In a 163-page claim filed in New York, Pentwater Capital Management — the second-largest shareholder in Rio-controlled Turquoise Hill (TSX, NYSE: TRQ) — has included the testimony of 12 individuals who worked for Rio or its contractors and which could tip the balance against the miner.

The document cites defective Chinese steel, incompetent engineering and poor procurement as some of the “true” reasons behind the mine expansion’s massive cost increase and delays.

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Ripples from Juukan: WA traditional owners back Arizona tribe fighting Rio Tinto – by Hamish Hastie (Sydney Morning Herald – March 8, 2021)

https://www.smh.com.au/

The Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people have thrown their support behind a North American first nations tribe locked in a battle with a Rio Tinto-owned copper miner.

San Carlos Apache Tribe in Arizona have fought Resolution Copper’s plans to build one of the world’s biggest copper mines on sacred land known as Oak Flat for a decade, but regulators have supported the land swap necessary for the mine to go ahead.

Resolution Copper is a joint subsidiary of Australian miners BHP and Rio Tinto, with the latter company drawing international condemnation in May 2020 after destroying the Juukan Gorge rock shelters to expand its Brockman 4 mine. The rock shelters contained evidence of 46,000 years of human habitation.

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Turquoise Hill CEO exits amid tension with Rio Tinto over funding Mongolian copper mine – by Niall McGee (Globe and Mail – March 4, 2021)

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/

Turquoise Hill Resources Ltd.’s chief executive officer Ulf Quellmann has resigned after months of tension between the company and Rio Tinto, its biggest shareholder, over a funding plan for its troubled Oyu Tolgoi copper mine in Mongolia.

The Montreal-based company and London-based Rio, one of the world’s biggest diversified miners, have clashed over how the construction of the giant underground copper mine should be funded.

In a statement, Turquoise Hill said that Rio had said it would vote against Ulf Quellmann in the upcoming annual general meeting. In light of that development, the company and Mr. Quellmann felt it was in their best interests that he resign.

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Rio and Mongolia agree to replace $7bn plan to expand copper mine – by Khaliun Bayartsogt (Nikkei Asia – March 1, 2021)

https://asia.nikkei.com/

ULAANBAATAR — After weeks of escalating tensions and leadership turmoil, Mongolia and Rio Tinto have agreed to work out a new arrangement to finance the costly expansion of the vast Oyu Tolgoi copper mine, Nikkei Asia has learned.

The rising cost of the new underground phase of the mine, one of the world’s biggest copper deposits, played a role in bringing down both Mongolia’s previous prime minister and Rio’s last chief executive. This appears to have helped set the stage for changing the terms of how the two co-owners of the project will share the expense.

Public irritation has been running high in Mongolia after new figures emerged late last year showing that the government could not expect to start receiving dividends from its 34% ownership of the mine in 2032 as originally expected.

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Rio Tinto’s New CEO Looks to Take More Risks – by Rhiannon Hoyle (Wall Street Journal – February 17, 2021)

https://www.wsj.com/

SYDNEY—The new chief executive officer of Rio Tinto PLC wants to change a risk-averse culture at the world’s second-largest mining company that could see it pursue commodities vital to the energy transition more aggressively.

Jakob Stausholm said mining companies had become too cautious after overpaying for deals around a decade ago during a rush to feed China with metals and minerals vital to its industrialization, which left them vulnerable to hefty asset write-downs when commodity prices fell.

Facing an investor backlash at the time, companies including Rio Tinto moved to prioritize dividends to shareholders and buying back shares over deals or investments in new mines that could turn sour.

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Juukan Gorge traditional owners say they are reluctant to continue dealing with Rio Tinto – by Lorena Allam and Ben Butler (The Guardian – February 4, 2021)

https://www.theguardian.com/

The traditional Aboriginal owners of Juukan Gorge, which mining giant Rio Tinto knowingly destroyed in order to access higher-grade iron ore, say they are reluctant to continue dealing with the company, accusing it of reneging on a key promise it made to rebuild their shattered relationship.

In a letter to the company seen by Guardian Australia, the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura peoples (PKKP) say they learned of an executive reshuffle only through media reports and accused Rio Tinto of breaking a promise that iron ore boss Ivan Vella would be personally responsible for repairing trust.

The PKKP say that for “consistency and balance” they had specifically asked for Vella to work with them, and at a meeting in November this was given “unequivocal” support by the chairman of the Rio Tinto board, Simon Thompson.

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Rio Tinto, Fortescue hit pay dirt as prices surge – by Sarah Turner and Jenny Wiggins (Australian Financial Review – January 18, 2021)

https://www.afr.com/

Another stunning rally in iron ore prices is set to put a rocket under profits for the major iron ore producers, showering shareholders with dividends, shoring up the sharemarket and helping the government restore its pandemic-ravaged finances.

Last week, the spot iron ore price reached $US172.36 a tonne, up 1.3 per cent on the previous session according to Fastmarkets MB. Iron ore futures on the Singapore exchange traded at $US170.15 a tonne at the end of the week – the highest since their inception in 2013 – after rallying nearly 10 per cent since the start of the year.

William Curtayne, portfolio manager at Milford Asset Management, said that if iron ore prices were held at about $US165 a tonne there would be large-scale upgrades to the earnings expectations of the iron ore miners.

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Native Americans seek to stop Rio Tinto, BHP copper mine plan – by Nick Toscano (Sydney Morning Herald – January 13, 2021)

https://www.smh.com.au/

Australian mining giants Rio Tinto and BHP are facing fresh opposition from Native American groups over a plan to build an enormous copper mine in Arizona in the United States.

Apache Stronghold, a non-profit group, has filed a lawsuit in the US District Court in Phoenix to stop the US government from transferring a 980-hectare parcel of land at Oak Flat, Arizona, to the mining giants’ joint venture, Resolution Copper.

Resolution, which is 55 per cent owned by Rio Tinto and 45 per cent owned by rival BHP, says its proposed copper mine has the potential to supply nearly 25 per cent of US copper demand for 40 years.

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