Rio Tinto slashes ties with Russian businesses over Ukraine war



By Praveen Menon

March 10 (Reuters) - Rio Tinto RIO.L RIO.AX on Thursday became the first major mining company to announce it was cutting all ties with Russian businesses, joining a raft of leading Western companies in a pullout following Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

The global miner has previously said it has no operational assets or employees to pull out of Russia, or Ukraine, but the move comes as Western firms come under increasing pressure to exit Russia since the invasion began on Feb. 24.

Leading U.S. companies like McDonald's, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola and Starbucks stopped trading with Russia this week, offering a united rebuke of the war on Ukraine. Moscow describes its actions there as a "special operation".

"Rio Tinto is in the process of terminating all commercial relationships it has with any Russian business," a Rio spokesman said in a message sent to Reuters. It wasn't immediately clear with which companies Rio has done business in Russia.

The announcement from the Anglo-Australian firm comes after a top executive said on Wednesday the company was looking for alternative fuel sources for its Mongolian copper operations at Oyu Tolgoi, but did not believe it can stop buying from Russia altogether.

The company did not immediately respond to questions on whether it would continue to buy Russian fuel and other products through non-Russian third parties.

The miner owns an 80% stake in Queensland Alumina Ltd (QAL) in a joint venture with Russia's Rusal International PJSC RUAL.MM , the world's second-largest aluminum producer. The company did not comment on how its decision to cut ties with Russian businesses would affect Queensland Alumina dealings with Rusal.

Rusal purchased its 20% stake in Australia's second-largest refinery processing alumina, the chemical compound that contains aluminium, in 2005 from Kaiser Aluminum KALU.O .

In 2018 Rusal was covered by U.S. sanctions against Russian businessmen and companies. Queensland Alumina was not affected by those sanctions and isn't affected so far by curbs put in place since the Ukraine invasion began.

Rio has said previously that it was actively reviewing any existing commercial ties to Russia across its global business.

Shares in Rio dropped as much as 8.3% on the Australian bourse, as they traded ex-dividend, before closing down 7.7% at A$109.91. The Sydney benchmark closed up 1.1%.

Rio rival BHP Group BHP.AX did not immediately comment on whether it had any business links with Russian firms and would consider terminating them.

Earlier, Royal Dutch Shell Plc RDSa.L stopped buying oil from Russia and said it would cut links to the country entirely while the United States stepped up its campaign to punish Moscow by banning Russian oil and energy imports.



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Reporting by Praveen Menon; Editing by Christopher Cushing, Michael Perry and Kenneth Maxwell

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