China’s mother lode eludes mining giant Rio Tinto

China’s mother lode eludes mining giant Rio Tinto

After more than a decade prospecting across China, world number-two mining company Rio Tinto Ltd./Plc said it still has not found the mother lode and was starting to look elsewhere.

“Rio Tinto has been undertaking mineral exploration in China for more than 11 years,” the company’s exploration director for Asia Tim Moody said.

“Although we have a number of promising prospects, discovery has so far eluded us,” he said at a recent industry conference focusing on mining in North-east Asia.

Rio Tinto, which sells to China much of the refined copper, aluminium and other commodities it produces from more than 80 sites worldwide to feed the country’s vast appetite for raw industrial materials, is currently focused on copper exploration in northern China, Moody said.

China each year consumes about a fifth of the world’s copper.

“We are also exploring for industrial minerals, including borates and potash in eastern China, Moody said.

Nickel, gold, iron ore and coal exploration has also been conducted in the country, he said.

This year, Rio Tinto was allocating only about $2 million to explore in China, down considerably from past years and less than 1 percent of the company’s overall exploration budget this year of around $250 million, Moody told Reuters on the side of the conference.

Moody said the lack of a big find was due in part to difficulties in acquiring exploration rights from the government.

The company, along with other international miners, was now advising the government on amendments to exiting mining regulations to speed up the exploration approval process, he said.

This year, Rio Tinto will probably spend more looking for new deposits in neighbouring Russia and Mongolia, Moody said.

“Russia, like China in some respects, has a well-developed mining industry and is possibly the largest mining country in the world,” Moody said.

In Mongolia, the company opened a branch exploration office earlier this year, he said.

Rio Tinto was up about 1 percent at A$77.29. The stock has risen as much as 15 percent to A$88.10 this year on the back of higher metals prices, largely owing to higher consumption in China. ($1=A$1.37)

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