Mining giant Rio Tinto has ceased operations at Richards Bay Minerals (RBM) in South Africa due to an escalation in security issues.
The company said it has declared force majeure on customer contracts and will keep the operations closed until the safety and security position improves.
Rio Tinto has long coped with community protests around mines, mostly related to issues from poor municipal services to labour conditions.
RBM was also forced to halt work on its $463m Zulti South project in 2019 after a spate of protests that led to one worker being shot and injured.
“We continue to offer our full support to the investigating authorities and I would like to acknowledge the ongoing support of the regional and national governments and South African Police Service as we work together to ensure that we can safely resume operations,” said Sinead Kaufman, Rio Tinto chief executive of minerals.
Rio Tinto’s sole South African operation employs approximately 5,000 people and produces ilmenite, rutile, and zircon – materials used in everything from paint to smart phones to sunscreens.
RBM is a joint venture between Rio Tinto, holding 74% and Blue Horizon – a consortium of investors and host communities.