Rio Tinto Alcan and South African Government in discussions on timing of COEGA smelter project

    LONDON, U.K., March 13 /CNW Telbec/ - Rio Tinto Alcan today announced
that it is in discussions with the South African government regarding the
timing of the COEGA smelter project near Port Elizabeth, South Africa. A team,
consisting of members from government, Rio Tinto and Eskom, are reviewing the
terms of the project in order to align its timing with the availability of
secure power generation capacity from Eskom.
    "We are committed to working closely with the South African government to
assist in mitigating the current energy crisis, while maintaining the option
for future long term development of the Port Elizabeth region," said Dick
Evans, chief executive, Rio Tinto Alcan and member of the Rio Tinto Board.
"Rio Tinto has operated successfully in South Africa for several decades, and
we look forward to continuing our mutually beneficial presence in the future,"
he added.
    Rio Tinto Alcan will work with the government to minimise the impact of a
potential rescheduling on regional economic development. "We will continue
working on our local community and social investment plans and remain
committed to finding solutions that will lead to the development of this
project," said Sandeep Biswas, senior vice president, business development,
Rio Tinto Alcan. "The objective is to preserve the feasibility of the project
and its underlying benefits for both Rio Tinto and South Africa, having the
long term picture in mind," he added.
    The project is moving into an interim phase pending the outcome of
ongoing discussions regarding the timing of the project. As the detailed
feasibility study is concluded, the project team will be adjusted for this
interim phase as appropriate.
    A long-term energy agreement for the proposed smelter was signed with
Eskom in November 2006, and an agreement for infrastructure and job training
support was concluded with Coega Development Corporation in July 2007. The
Industrial Development Corporation of South Africa (IDC) is a 15% partner in
the project. An additional ownership allocation, of no less than 5%, has been
reserved for Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment partners.
    Rio Tinto has operated in South Africa for several decades, currently
employing over 4130 people, in Palabora Mining Company; Richards Bay Minerals
(50/50 Joint Venture with BHP Billiton), as well as staff in Limpopo and
Johannesburg offices.

    About Rio Tinto

    Rio Tinto is a leading international mining group headquartered in the
UK, combining Rio Tinto plc, a London and NYSE listed company, and Rio Tinto
Limited, which is listed on the Australian Securities Exchange.
    Rio Tinto's business is finding, mining, and processing mineral
resources. Major products are aluminium, copper, diamonds, energy (coal and
uranium), gold, industrial minerals (borax, titanium dioxide, salt, talc) and
iron ore. Activities span the world but are strongly represented in Australia
and North America with significant businesses in South America, Asia, Europe
and southern Africa.

    Forward-Looking Statements

    This announcement includes "forward-looking statements" within the
meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and Section
21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended. All statements other
than statements of historical facts included in this announcement, including,
without limitation, those regarding Rio Tinto's financial position, business
strategy, plans and objectives of management for future operations (including
development plans and objectives relating to Rio Tinto's products and
production forecasts), are forward-looking statements. Such forward-looking
statements involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors
which may cause the actual results, performance or achievements of Rio Tinto,
or industry results, to be materially different from any future results,
performance or achievements expressed or implied by such forward-looking
    Such forward-looking statements are based on numerous assumptions
regarding Rio Tinto's present and future business strategies and the
environment in which Rio Tinto will operate in the future. Among the important
factors that could cause Rio Tinto's actual results, performance or
achievements to differ materially from those in the forward-looking statements
include, among others, levels of actual production during any period, levels
of demand and market prices, the ability to produce and transport products
profitably, the impact of foreign currency exchange rates on market prices and
operating costs, operational problems, political uncertainty and economic
conditions in relevant areas of the world, the actions of competitors,
activities by governmental authorities such as changes in taxation or
regulation and such other risk factors identified in Rio Tinto's most recent
Annual Report on Form 20-F filed with the United States Securities and
Exchange Commission (the "SEC") or Form 6-Ks furnished to the SEC.
Forward-looking statements should, therefore, be construed in light of such
risk factors and undue reliance should not be placed on forward-looking
statements. These forward-looking statements speak only as of the date of this
announcement. Rio Tinto expressly disclaims any obligation or undertaking
(except as required by applicable law, the City Code on Takeovers and Mergers
(the "Takeover Code"), the UK Listing Rules, the Disclosure and Transparency
Rules of the Financial Services Authority and the Listing Rules of the
Australian Securities Exchange) to release publicly any updates or revisions
to any forward-looking statement contained herein to reflect any change in Rio
Tinto's expectations with regard thereto or any change in events, conditions
or circumstances on which any such statement is based.
    Nothing in this announcement should be interpreted to mean that future
earnings per share of Rio Tinto plc or Rio Tinto Limited will necessarily
match or exceed its historical published earnings per share.
    Subject to the requirements of the Takeover Code, none of Rio Tinto, any
of its officers or any person named in this announcement with their consent or
any person involved in the preparation of this announcement makes any
representation or warranty (either express or implied) or gives any assurance
that the implied values, anticipated results, performance or achievements
expressed or implied in forward-looking statements contained in this
announcement will be achieved.

For further information:

For further information: Media Relations, London: Christina Mills,
Office: +44 (0) 20 7781 1154, Mobile: +44 (0) 7825 275 605; Nick Cobban,
Office: +44 (0) 20 7781 1138, Mobile: +44 (0) 7920 041 003; Rio Tinto Alcan
Media Relations, Canada: Stefano Bertolli, +1 514 848 8151,; Media Relations, US: Nancy Ives, Mobile: +1 619
540 3751; Media Relations, Australia: Ian Head, Office: +61 (0) 3 9283 3620,
Mobile: +61 (0) 408 360 101; Amanda Buckley, Office: +61 (0) 3 9283 3627,
Mobile: +61 (0) 419 801 349; Rio Tinto Alcan Media Relations, South Africa:
Robert Valdmanis, +27 (0) 11 303 8919,; Investor
Relations, London: Nigel Jones, Office: +44 (0) 20 7753 2401, Mobile: +44 (0)
7917 227 365; David Ovington, Office: +44 (0) 20 7753 2326, Mobile: +44 (0)
7920 010 978; Investor Relations, North America: Jason Combes, Office: +1 (0)
801 685 4535, Mobile: +1 (0) 801 558 2645; Investor Relations, Australia: Dave
Skinner, Office: +61 (0) 3 9283 3628, Mobile: +61 (0) 408 335 309; Simon
Ellinor, Office:+ 61 (0) 7 3867 1068;;;

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