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Rio Tinto’s diamond-loving boss talks of further development at Diavik

by Greg Klein | November 12, 2014

Speaking to Bloomberg at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference in Beijing on November 10, Rio Tinto NYE:RIO chief executive Sam Walsh took questions on topics ranging from Turquoise Hill in Mongolia to potential asset sales and diamonds.

Rio Tinto’s diamond-loving boss talks of further development at Diavik

Rio’s Walsh: “Diamonds?
I love diamonds.”

Referring to delays with the Mongolian copper-gold deposit, he said, “It’s a big project and it’ll have a 50-year life and it’s important for everybody to get it right. So I’m willing to be patiently impatient as we wait for the approval.” His company hasn’t set any deadlines, he added. “Deadlines don’t work anyway, as a matter of fact.”

Asked about shedding assets like Rio’s diamond unit or its interest in the Iron Ore Company of Canada, Walsh pointed out that his company has already divested assets worth $17.6 billion over the last seven years. “There’s a little bit of further clean-up to do but nothing major. Diamonds? I love diamonds. I think it’s a seriously good business and as you go forward the opportunities really are seriously good.”

“It’s not an asset I would like to divest of, no. It’s an asset I would like to nurture and we’ve got an opportunity in Diavik north of Yellowknife for a further development that you may hear about next year.”

Rio has a 60% interest in the Northwest Territories diamond mine, with Dominion Diamond TSX:DDC holding the rest.

While his remarks seem encouraging for Diavik, Rio dumped 30 to 40 employees from its Argyle diamond mine, the West Australian reported November 12. The operation’s maintenance shutdown will reduce the company’s overall 2014 guidance to 15 million carats from an originally planned 16 million, the paper stated.

Watch the Bloomberg interview.

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