Rio Tinto's minerals sands operation in South Africa shut by protests
JOHANNESBURG, July 11 (Reuters) - A mineral sands operation
on the South African coast run by Rio Tinto has
been closed since Friday due to violent community protests which
saw a security guard killed earlier this week, the company and a
union said on Wednesday.
Community unrest is a common feature of South Africa's
social landscape, which is marred by high jobless rates and
glaring income disparities, underscoring the social risks for
investors in the country's mining sector.
"Due to the escalation in activity around the blockades on
the access roads, staff were sent home on Friday. Our highest
priority is the safety of our people," a Rio spokesman said. The
operation, Richards Bay Minerals, is on South Africa's Indian
Mzi Zakwe, the regional secretary for the National Union of
Mineworkers (NUM), told Reuters the union's 900 members were on
forced leave because of the violence, which he said was rooted
in grievances between the company and contractors.
Unrest has hit the area before, which is also near South
Africa's main coal terminal.
Elsewhere in South Africa, the eastern limb of the platinum
belt was hit by more than 400 incidents of social unrest
impacting mining operations since between the start of 2016 and
April this year according to data compiled by Anglo American
Platinum and reviewed by Reuters.
(Reporting by Ed Stoddard, editing by Louise Heavens)
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