Rio Tinto Group is a multinational mining operation and the 2nd largest miner worldwide. The company has a dual listing with shares trading on both the London Stock Exchange and the Australian ASX.
Rio Tinto is named for a mining area in Spain. The mines at Rio Tinto have been in operation off and on since 3,000 BC and produce copper, silver, and gold among other minerals. The mines were rediscovered most recently in 1556 and then fell into the hands of the Spanish government in 1724. The Spanish government was a poor steward of the operations and eventually put it up for auction. In 1873 a group of businessmen bought the property for a steal that included Spain’s relinquishing its rights to any future profits.
The consortium quickly commenced operations as Rio Tinto Mining and focused on developing its resources. Within 10 years it was a leading producer of copper and then it fell into the hands of the Rothschilds. The Rothschilds expanded the operations but failed to diversify the company in a meaningful way. The company reached a peak in the early 1900s that was dashed by WWI and the loss of the US as an end market but the story is not over.
A new management team took control of the business in 1925 and began to diversify the company. Their efforts opened up new territories in other countries including Africa and Australia which was instrumental to long-term success. An increasingly fascist government made it difficult to operate in Spain and led the company to divest itself of its original asset, the Rio Tinto Mine. That could not have been done without operations in other countries. Another series of mergers and acquisitions will grow the company to global status.
Today, Rio Tinto is a diversified and integrated mining operation that engages in the exploration, development and production of mineral-based resources. The company operates in 4 key segments that include Iron Ore, Aluminum, Copper & Diamonds and Energy & Minerals. The company operates mines, smelters and refiners in about 35 countries producing iron ore and iron, bauxite and alumina, industrial diamonds, gold, borates, titanium dioxide and lithium among many other minerals and products. The bulk of operations are in Australia and Canada which are both rich in natural resources.
The company’s products are used by all end markets and are essential for the transition to green energy. Not only is the iron and copper required to build the infrastructure but lithium and other minerals are key for electrification. Rio Tinto products are necessary for agriculture and include several key fertilizers including borates.