Brussels, 25 th January 2010

Antitrust: Commission opens formal proceedings concerning iron ore production joint venture between BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto

The European Commission has opened a formal antitrust investigation into Anglo-Australian mining companies Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton under the EU rules on restrictive business practices (Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union - TFEU). Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton are respectively the second and third largest producers of iron ore in the world. The proposed joint venture between Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton would combine the parties' iron ore assets in Western Australia. The Commission will in particular examine the effects of the proposed joint venture on the worldwide market for iron ore transported by sea (so-called "seaborne iron ore").

Opening of proceedings does not imply that the Commission has conclusive evidence of an infringement but merely that the Commission will investigate the case as a matter of priority.

There is no binding deadline to complete inquiries into anticompetitive conduct. Their duration depends on a number of factors, including the complexity of the case, cooperation from the undertakings concerned and exercise of the rights of defence.

Why has the Commission opened proceedings?

The proceedings concern the agreement signed on 5 December 2009 between BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto to establish a production joint venture covering the entirety of both companies' Western Australian iron ore assets. The Commission will in particular examine
whether the joint venture would have a negative effect on competition on the worldwide market for seaborne iron ore.

Iron ore is the main component of steel. Virtually all iron ore mined worldwide is used in steel production. In turn, steel is a key element for the automotive, construction and consumer goods industries. Iron ore is sold in various forms, as finely grained ore (concentrates, fines) and in larger pieces (lumps and pellets). Worldwide iron ore consumption is now picking up again following a slowdown as a result of the economic and financial crisis, and is forecast to grow steadily in the coming years. Three companies, Vale of Brazil, Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton account for most of the iron ore sold worldwide on a seaborne basis.

In 2008, the Commission examined under the EU Merger Regulation
the full acquisition of Rio Tinto by BHP Billiton. The transaction was abandoned by BHP Billiton on 26 November 2008 (see IP/08/1798 ).

The current investigation, based on Article 101 TFEU, concerns a different operation as the agreement between the parties now focuses on the
establishment of a joint venture for iron ore production, leaving the marketing activities of the companies separate.

What is the legal basis for the decision?

The legal basis for this procedural step is Article 2(1) of Commission Regulation No 773/2004 and Article 11(6) of Council Regulation No 1/2003.

Article 2(1) of Regulation No 773/2004 provides that the Commission can initiate proceedings with a view to adopting at a later stage a decision on substance according to Articles 7-10 of Regulation No 1/2003 at any point in time, but at the latest when issuing a statement of objections or a preliminary assessment notice in a settlement procedure. In the case at stake, the Commission has chosen to open proceedings before such further steps.

Article 11(6) of Regulation No 1/2003 provides that the initiation of proceedings relieves the competition authorities of the Member States of their authority to apply the competition rules laid down in Articles 101 and 102 of the TFEU. Article 16(1) of the same Regulation provides that national courts must avoid giving decisions which would conflict with a decision contemplated by the Commission in proceedings that it has initiated.

The Commission may make public the initiation of proceedings in any appropriate way. Before doing so, it informs the parties concerned. The Competition Authorities of the Member States concerned have also been informed.

The companies' rights of defence will be fully respected.


2009/6/6  中国アルミのRio Tinto への出資 取り止め

6月5日、Rio Tinto は中国アルミの出資取り止めと、これに伴う資金不足対策として2つの対策を発表した。

一つはRio Tinto BHP Billiton の西豪州の鉄鉱石事業の50/50 JV化で、シェア調整のためBHP Billiton から58億ドルを受け取る。




Rio Tinto BHP Billiton 200965日、両社の西豪州の鉄鉱石資産を包含する製造JVの設立の契約に調印した。

BHP Billiton の資産の比率は45%であるため、50/50JVにするために、BHP Billiton Rio Tinto 58億米ドルを支払う。



但し、HIsmelt (銑鉄プラント)や二次処理設備、西豪州以外での現在及び将来の事業展開はJVから除外される。

Rio Tinto の会長は、JVはワールドクラスの資産、インフラを持つ圧倒的な鉄鉱石事業となるとしている。

必要な承認を得て発足するが、どちらかが取り止めた場合は、違約金275.5 百万米ドルを支払う。

2007BHP Billiton Rio Tinto に対して買収の提案を行い、2008年11月にBHP Billiton が買収を諦めたが、買収の主な目的は西豪州の鉄鉱石であったと言われる。
BHP Billiton の構想が一部実現したこととなる。

2008/11/27 BHP BillitonRio Tinto 買収を断念 

注 下の鉄鉱石能力グラフで、BHPB-PilbaraRio-HamersleyRio-Robe はいずれも西豪州のPilbara 地区にある鉱山。


05 December 2009

Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton sign binding agreements on iron ore production joint venture

On 5 June 2009, Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton signed an agreement of core principles to establish a production joint venture covering the entirety of both companies' Western Australian iron ore assets. The companies today signed binding agreements on the proposed JV that cover all aspects of how the joint venture will operate and be governed.

The companies have also filed submissions with the European Commission and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission in relation to the proposed production joint venture and expect to submit filings in other relevant jurisdictions shortly. The companies understand that the European Commission will review the production joint venture under Article 101 (formerly Article 81).  Taking into account all regulatory review processes and shareholder approvals, Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton anticipate completion of the JV in the second half of calendar year 2010

The production joint venture encompasses all current and future Western Australian iron ore assets and liabilities and will be owned 50:50 by Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton.  It will deliver substantial synergies resulting from combining the companies’ Western Australian iron ore operations, with the aim of producing more iron ore at lower cost.  Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton believe the net present value of these unique production and development synergies will be in excess of US$10 billion (100 per cent basis).  As previously outlined, these synergies are anticipated to come from:

・ Combining adjacent mines into single operations;
・ Reducing costs through shorter rail hauls and more efficient allocations of port capacity;
・ Blending opportunities which will maximise product recovery and provide further operating efficiencies;
・ Optimising future growth opportunities through the development of consolidated, larger and more capital efficient expansion projects;
・ Combining the management, procurement and general overhead activities into a single entity.

Tom Albanese, chief executive, Rio Tinto, said, “Signing binding agreements brings us one step closer to unlocking the full production potential of our Pilbara iron ore assets and achieving substantial benefits for all our stakeholders. Completing the joint venture is a priority for Rio Tinto in 2010 and I look forward to realising this vision and capturing the synergies for our shareholders.”

BHP Billiton CEO, Marius Kloppers, said, “We are very pleased to now have formal and binding agreements in place to develop this important joint venture.  With the history of both companies’ attempts to join together these two world-class iron ore operations in WA at various times, this deal has effectively been more than a decade in the making.  It is an important milestone towards delivering substantial additional benefits to both sets of shareholders, and to the shareholders of our respective joint venture partners in the Pilbara.”

On 15 October 2009, Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton announced that the partners would not proceed with any joint venture marketing activity. This is the only material change to the non-binding core principles agreement signed on 5 June 2009. The production joint venture will deliver all its iron ore output to Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton to sell independently through their own marketing groups.



15 October 2009

Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton update on proposed iron ore production joint venture

On 5 June 2009, Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton signed a non-binding agreement to establish a production joint venture covering the entirety of both companies' Western Australian iron ore assets.

Under the terms of the agreement up to 15 per cent of production was proposed to be sold by the joint venture, independent of Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton.
Following discussions between the two companies, Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton have decided
not to proceed with the joint venture marketing activity. As a result, all production from the proposed joint venture would be marketed separately by Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton. 

The two companies believe that this change will clarify the nature of the JV for customers and emphasise its focus on realising significant production and development synergies.

Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton are pleased with progress towards definitive JV agreements and expect to finalise these agreements on schedule.

21 December 2021 






Anglo-Australian mining firm Rio Tinto has agreed to acquire Rincon lithium project in Argentina from Rincon Mining, in a deal worth $825m.

Located in the lithium triangle in the pro mining province of Salta, the Rincon is a large undeveloped lithium brine project with a potential to produce battery grade lithium carbonate.

The deal forms part of Rio Tinto’s plan to build its battery materials operations.



Rio Tinto to acquire Rincon Mining lithium project

Rio Tinto has entered into a binding agreement to acquire the Rincon lithium project in Argentina from Rincon Mining, a company owned by funds managed by the private equity group Sentient Equity Partners, for $825 million.
 Rio Tinto has agreed to acquire Rincon Mining Pty Limited,  which owns the Salar del Rincón Project in Argentina and Lithium Extraction Technologies (Australia) Pty which holds certain intellectual property which may be applied in conjunction with lithium projects.

The acquisition demonstrates Rio Tinto’s commitment to build its battery materials business and strengthen its portfolio for the global energy transition.

Rincon is a large undeveloped lithium brine project located in the heart of the lithium triangle in the Salta Province of Argentina, an emerging hub for greenfield projects. The project is a long life, scaleable resource capable of producing battery grade lithium carbonate. It has the potential to have one of the lowest carbon footprints in the industry that can help deliver on Rio Tinto’s commitment to decarbonise its portfolio.

Rio Tinto Chief Executive Jakob Stausholm said “This acquisition is strongly aligned with our strategy to prioritise growth capital in commodities that support decarbonisation and to continue to deliver attractive returns to shareholders. The Rincon project holds the potential to deliver a significant new supply of battery-grade lithium carbonate, to capture the opportunity offered by the rising demand driven by the global energy transition. It is expected to be a long life, low-cost asset that will continue to build the strength of our Battery Materials portfolio, with our combined lithium assets spanning the US, Europe and South America.”

Once acquired by Rio Tinto, the Rincon project will be subject to the completion of studies to confirm the resource and define an Australasian Code for Reporting of Exploration Results, Mineral Resources and Ore Reserves, 2012 (JORC Code) compliant resource statement. Work will be undertaken to determine the development strategy and timing, secure updates to existing Environmental Impact Assessment Permits to allow development and production, and undertake ongoing engagement with communities, the province of Salta and the Government of Argentina. This consultation process will ensure we build a world class operation in the province of Salta.

The direct lithium extraction technology proposed for the project has the potential to significantly increase lithium recoveries as compared to solar evaporation ponds. A pilot plant is currently running at the site and further work will focus on continuing to optimise the process and recoveries.

The market fundamentals for battery grade lithium carbonate are strong, with lithium demand forecast to grow 25-35% per annum over the next decade with a significant supply demand deficit expected from the second half of this decade.

As the project is currently held through an Argentine branch of an Australian company, completion of the transaction is conditional upon approval by Australia’s Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB). Subject to this FIRB approval, the transaction is expected to be completed in the first half of 2022.