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Rio Tinto

Rio Tinto

Industry: 
Mining
Value of USG Contracts: 
6
Country: 
Australia/United Kingdom
Contact Information: 
Sources: 

Rio Tinto has interests in two uranium mines. One of these is Rössing in Namibia, in which it owns a 69 per cent interest. Rössing is one of the largest open pit uranium mines in the world. The mine currently produces about 7.55 per cent of the world's uranium. Rio Tinto states that Rössing operates “uranium under strict safeguard practices where there is never a diversion of nuclear material from commercial nuclear power stations to nuclear weapons.” (Rio Tinto Group, “Uranium”)

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"Rio Tinto Group, the world’s third- largest mining company, said Iran can maintain a 15 percent stake in its Rossing uranium operation after a United Nations ruling barred the country from investing in mines of the fuel... 'It is shameful that Rio Tinto would attempt to defend any business with Iran,' Kimmie Lipscomb, a spokeswoman for New York-based non-profit group United Against Nuclear Iran, said today. 'How can Rio Tinto claim that by conducting business with Iran in a uranium mining venture, it is not contributing to Iran’s ability to develop nuclear weapons?'... Mark D. Wallace, president of UANI and a former U.S. ambassador to the UN, wrote to Rio Chairman Jan du Plessis last week, saying Iran’s stake appeared to be a violation of U.S. law. He requested a response by Nov. 2. 'Profits from the Rossing uranium mine are channeled directly to the Iranian government, emboldening and financially empowering its pursuit of an illegal nuclear weapons program,' Wallace wrote in the letter dated Oct. 21. 'It is time for Rio Tinto and Rossing to recognize this threat as well and follow the lead of other responsible companies and stop putting short- term profits ahead of Iran’s clear threat to global security.'"(Bloomberg, "Rio Tinto Says Iran is Allowed to Keep 15% Stake in Namibian Uraniaum Mine," 10/27/2010)

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Since 1975 under the rule of the Shah, the government of Iran has held a 15 percent share in Rossing. In 2005, according to Graham Davidson, the general manager for operations at Rossing, “Representatives of the government of Iran routinely attend the Rossing board of directors meetings.” Davidson further added that milled uranium oxide (“yellowcake”) for centrifuges is not sold to Iran. The company, however, did not respond to a question of whether Tehran had purchased any Rossing uranium in the past. (Reuters, “Iran Has Stake in Namibia Uranium Mine, Says Owner,” 1/29/05)

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The Namibian government reports that Rossing is under pressure from Western countries to not sell uranium to Iran. Prime Minister Nahas Angula “could not say whether Namibia was supplying Iran with uranium but revealed that government viewed Iran as one of its customers who have contracts to buy uranium mined from the country.” (APA, “Namibia under pressure not to supply uranium to Iran,” 2/3/09)

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Rio Tinto disclosed in its 2008 Annual Report Form that it had “signed a final and binding sale agreement to divest the whole of its [70 percent] interest in the Sari Gunay gold project in western Iran. On the completion of this transaction, which is expected in mid 2008, Rio Tinto intends to close its office in Iran and will cease to have any interests in Iran.” Rio Tinto’s filings make no disclosure on Iran’s interest in the Rössing uranium mine. (Rio Tinto 2008 Annual Report Form)