FOUR workers from Rio Tinto, the Anglo-Australian mining group, have been detained by Chinese authorities in Shanghai without explanation.
The company said yesterday it is concerned about the arrest on Sunday of the Shanghai-based staff. So far it has not been able to speak to the three Chinese and one Australian passport holder.
Rio Tinto last month angered China by spurning a $19.5bn (£12.1bn) investment from Chinese state-owned metals group Chinalco in favour of a rights issue and iron-ore joint venture with BHP Billiton.
The detention by China’s public security bureau is highly unusual and comes as the company is locked in tough talks over iron ore prices.
Rio Tinto is still in discussion with China’s steel mills, which want more than the 33 per cent cut agreed with other Asian steel groups.
Rio has not yet agreed iron ore contracts for 2009-10 and some Chinese media have accused the company of withholding iron ore from the spot market to drive up prices and undermine China’s bargaining position.
Rio Tinto said it “intends to co-operate fully with any investigation the Chinese authorities may wish to undertake and has sought clarification on what has occurred”.