Russian aluminium firm UC Rusal fired back at its partner at Queensland Alumina Ltd., Anglo-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto Group after the latter stepped in and took control of Rusal’s 20-percent share of the operation earlier this month.
Citing sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine and specifically a ban on alumina exports to Russia from Australia enacted last month, Rio Tinto stepped in and took control of “100% of the capacity and governance” of QAL early in April.
Rio Tinto said its actions were necessary for keeping the 3.7-million-metric-tons-per-annum alumina refinery running safely and maintaining operations of one of the region’s biggest employers.
In addition to banning alumina export to Russia, the Australian government has also sanctioned Rusal’s founder and current shareholder Oleg Deripaska due to his associations with Russia’s leader Vladimir Putin. However, as yet Rusal and its parent company, En+ Group, are not under sanction.
Rusal said in a statement last week that it takes issue with Rio Tinto’s maneuver and it remains committed to the partnership and QAL.
“Rusal disagrees that the operations of its subsidiary, Alumina & Bauxite Company Ltd. (ABC), do not presently comply with the Australian Government’s sanctions and disagrees with the decision made by QAL management that ‘step-in arrangements’ under the joint venture terms have been triggered or that they are necessary.”
Rusal went on to say that it is in talks with Rio Tinto about the situation and hopes to return to sharing control with the firm.
“Rusal anticipates a successful resolution of the discussions with QAL and Rio Tinto and ABC resuming its participation in the operations of the Gladstone refinery.”
Rio Tinto did not comment on the situation when approached by industry media.