Home > Market change > Rio Tinto strengthens its position in China

Rio Tinto strengthens its position in China

December 6, 2010

“Rio Tinto and Chinalco today signed a non binding Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to establish a landmark exploration joint venture (JV) in China. The JV will explore mainland China for world-class mineral deposits and is expected to come into operation in the first half of next year. It is intended that between three and five large area exploration projects will be selected for initial focus by the JV, with the potential for additional regions to be added at a later date. Chinalco will hold a 51 per cent interest in the JV and Rio Tinto will hold a 49 per cent interest.”

Source: Rio Tinto press release, December 3 2010

“My second idea revolves around assisting China in the search for world class mineral resources in its own backyard within China. In saying this, let me stress that I recognise China has considerable expertise in this area and that a lot of exploration work is being undertaken in China and that new resources are being discovered here. …

There is no “magic wand” in mineral exploration. Success requires highly experienced people, rich databases, a deep understanding of conceptual orebody models, robust research and development teams, appropriate technology, and good management, to name a few. We believe we can bring that expertise and know-how to bear in helping China to find major orebodies on its home soil. I remain happy to discuss these ideas further.”

Source: Albanese presentation at Melbourne Mining Club Shanghai, August 19 2010

Observations:

  • Rio Tinto will work with Chinalco in an exploration Joint Venture in which Rio Tinto will hold 49% of the shares. The CEO of the JV will be appointed by Rio Tinto.
  • In August of this year mr. Albanese informally invited the Chinese to search for options in which the company could work together.
  • While in Beijing, mr. Albanase also signed an extension of the agreement with Sinosteel to expand the Channar mine in the Pilbara region in Western Australia.

Implications:

  • Rio Tinto has been working hard to establish strong ties with Chinese government and companies. With Chinalco as the largest shareholder it holds a good position. However, the refusal to give Chinalco an even larger share and the conviction of three employees for corruption in China did slow down the process for some time. Mr. Albanese has managed well to regain the momentum of discussion.
  • BHP Billiton has not yet managed to establish a foothold in the Chinese industry. Whether the company deems the political risk in the country too high, the company is scared away by the operational risk of developing infrastructure (most interesting exploration prospects in China are located far in the inland, making transportation to the markets near the coast challenging), or the company simply did not manage to establish the right connections yet is not clear.

©2010 | Wilfred Visser | BUJEZKKNXD3Z | thebusinessofmining.com

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