Home » Rio Tinto CEO Jakob Stausholm pauses South Africa operations due to safety concerns

Rio Tinto CEO Jakob Stausholm pauses South Africa operations due to safety concerns

by Ishioma Emi

Rio Tinto Group has declared force majeure on customer contracts at Richards Bay Minerals (RBM)  to prioritize worker safety following escalating violence at its South African mine. 

According to Yahoo Finance, the group is using this move to prioritize the safety of its 5,000 workers at RBM. This means more than 5,000 workers will be out of a job while the halt is on, in addition to those who make their living from the mine’s value chain.

Rio Tinto Group is an Anglo-Australian multinational and the world’s second-largest metals and mining corporation, producing iron ore, copper, diamonds, gold and uranium. As of 2020, its total assets stood at $97.390 billion.

Last month, the group was forced to suspend activity at the mineral sands operation in South Africa after RBM manager Nico Swart was shot dead on his way to work.

“It has become impossible for us to run the business. We won’t go back until it’s safe for our people,” RBM Managing Director Werner Duvenhage said. He cited reports that the latest violence may be connected to youth unemployment.

Internal conflicts linked to poor municipal services and labor conditions have succeeded in halting mines throughout South Africa in recent weeks. Protesters have destroyed operational equipment and infrastructure, blocking access roads to mines.

In 2008, environmental groups and the Norwegian government extensively criticized Rio Tonto for the ecological impacts of its mining activities. Claims that its operations in Indonesia led to severe environmental damages led the Norweigan Pension Fund to exclude Rio Tinto from its investment portfolio.

Last year, the company demolished a sacred cave in Juukan Gorge, Western Australia, which had evidence of 46,000 years of continuous human occupation. It was considered the only inland site in Australia to show continual human occupation through the last Ice Age. This led to the resignation of former CEO Jean-Sebastien Jacques.

Subsequently, in January 2021, Jakob Stausholm was appointed CEO. The Danish businessman joined the mining giant in September 2018 as executive director and CFO.

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