MAC: Mines and Communities

Rio Tinto Suspends $205 Million Uruguay Port Project - Rio Tinto cancela obra en Uruguay

Published by MAC on 2009-01-19
Source: Dow Jones (2009-01-14)

BUENOS AIRES - Mining company Rio Tinto Ltd. has put off plans to spend $205 million to develop a port facility in Agraciada, Uruguay, a company spokesman said Wednesday. "Rio Tinto is postponing the expansion of the Corumba mine and associated logistics, which includes the iron ore port project in Uruguay," Rio Tinto spokesman Tony Shaffer said.

The port project had been aimed at loading iron ore from Rio Tinto's Corumba mine in Brazil on oceangoing vessels. The ore is currently shipped down the Paraguay and Parana rivers by barge to the Argentine port of San Nicolas further down river. Some is sold locally, with the remainder going to Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

However, on Jan. 11, Rio Tinto announced it had postponed its $2.15 billion expansion of the Corumba mine due to weak market conditions.

The company is reviewing its spending and production across its global portfolio of operations as the global slowdown hits demand for the commodities it produces.

The Corumba expansion, announced in July last year, was to boost annual capacity at the iron ore mine to 12.8 million metric tons a year from current output of about two million tons.

Corumba is just the latest in a steady stream of mining projects to be canceled or put on hold as companies react to falling prices and demand. "Rio Tinto will maintain the option to pursue the expansion when credible signs of a market recovery are seen. The action is required, both to protect the business from the economic storm we are facing as well as to position it properly for when the market turns around," Shaffer said.

The port project enjoyed strong support from Uruguayan officials, although it raised the hackles of Argentine officials who resent that they were not consulted about the development on the banks of the river which makes up the border between the two countries.

Argentina and Uruguay have clashed frequently in recent years over use of the shared river. They've been locked in a bitter battle since 2005, after Finnish consortium Metsa-Botnia Oy began developing a pulp mill on the Uruguay bank of the same river, prompting fierce resistance from Argentine activists.

With the nearby border bridge into Uruguay under a protesters' blockade for more than two years, both sides are awaiting a final ruling from the International Court in the Hague on Argentina's claim that the plant breaches a bilateral treaty aimed at safeguarding the Uruguay River and its surroundings. So far, neither country has won relief from the Court - Uruguay in its bid to force an end to the protests, which it said cost at least $400 million in lost trade; Argentina in its request for removal of the plant.


Rio Tinto cancela obra en Uruguay por suspensión de inversión Brasil

Reuters

14 de enero 2009

MONTEVIDEO - La minera Rio Tinto suspendió la realización de un proyecto para construir un puerto en el oeste de Uruguay, tras posponer una millonaria inversión en Brasil vinculada al mismo debido a la crisis económica mundial, dijo un portavoz.

Rio Tinto había anunciado el lunes la suspensión en forma indefinida de un proyecto de expansión por 2.150 millones de dólares de un yacimiento de mineral de hierro en Corumbá, Brasil, ante un descenso de la producción mundial de acero por el estancamiento de la economía. "Rio Tinto pospone la expansión de la mina de Corumbá y la logística relacionada, que incluye el proyecto para un puerto de mineral de hierro en Uruguay", dijo el miércoles el portavoz de la compañía, Tony Shaffer.

La firma no precisó qué monto de la inversión representa el puerto en Uruguay.

La minera tenía previsto construir el puerto en una playa del departamento de Soriano, unos 260 kilómetros al oeste de Montevideo, sobre el río Uruguay, como una vía de salida del mineral desde Brasil.

"Rio Tinto mantendrá la opción de expansión (...) la acción es necesaria tanto para proteger a la empresa de la crisis económica actual como para posicionarla adecuadamente cuando las condiciones de mercado mejoren", agregó el portavoz.

En diciembre, la compañía dijo que recortaría su plantilla en un 13 por ciento, reduciría el gasto en más de la mitad y vendería activos con el fin de reducir su deuda de más de 40.000 millones de dólares y frenar la caída de los precios de las materias primas.

La expansión del proyecto en Brasil había sido anunciada en julio del 2008.

(Reporte de Patricia Avila, Editado por Patricia Vélez)

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