AAP Finance

Rio Tinto shares dip as violence disrupts

By AAP Newswire

Rio Tinto shares have slipped after the miner's $US1.5 billion Utah copper project extension was tempered by news its South African operations had been disrupted by nearby violence.

The global miner said on Tuesday it was spending $US1.5 billion ($A2.19 billion) on its Kennecott copper mine in the US over the next six years in a deal that will extend production out to 2032.

In a separate announcement, Rio Tinto also announced it had curtailed operations at its Richard Bay Minerals unit in South Africa after one employee was shot and another seriously injured amid nearby turmoil.

"As a result, all mining operations at RBM have been halted and the smelters are operating at a reduced level, with a minimum number of employees now on site," Rio Tinto said in a release.

Construction of Rio's $US463 million Zulti South project has also been temporarily paused.

Titanium dioxide slag production for 2019 is now expected to be at the bottom end of 2019 guidance of between 1.2 million and 1.4 million tonnes and Rio is contacting customers to discuss how to minimise any potential disruptions.

The miner's ASX-listed shares slipped 2.4 per cent to a nine-day low of $94.69 by 1040 AEDT.

Nonetheless, shares in the company are still up about 20 per cent in 2019 amid soaring commodity prices, even after slipping 12.3 per cent from July's 11-year high of $107.99.

The London-headquartered miner said the Kennecott upgrades will deliver close to one million tonnes of refined copper from the US project between 2026 and 2032, with the company now having spent $US5 billion on the operation since purchasing it in 1989.

The company last week approved a $US749 million investment in its Greater Tom Price operations in Western Australia, while in October it said it could close an unprofitable aluminium smelter on New Zealand's South Island.