June 27 (Bloomberg) -- Rio Tinto Group, the world’s third- largest mining company, said it has been in contact with Australia’s new Prime Minister Julia Gillard about a proposed mining tax and will negotiate further.
"We are ready, willing and able to engage," Tom Albanese, Rio’s chief executive officer, said in an interview at the Fortune Global Forum in Cape Town today. "I would like to see a solution quickly. It’s in the interest of our business and the Australian economy to get this matter behind us."
Gillard, 48, who became Australia’s first female prime minister on June 24, agreed to start talks with mining companies in Australia on a proposed tax on profits that would raise A$12 billion ($10.5 billion) in its first two years. The plan had sparked a storm of protests from the world’s biggest producers, which threatened to scrap projects and curtail investment.
With increased cash flows this year, Albanese, 52, said he would have invested more in Australia if it hadn’t been for the "dampening" effect of the so-called super tax. Rio said on June 1 that it was already paying its "fair share" of Australian taxes after former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd vowed to push ahead with plans to impose a 40 percent levy on profits.
"I want to have an honest and open debate," Albanese said. "Putting more capital into the industry, you actually create more revenue, you pay more taxes, you pay more royalties, and that in itself goes a long way towards balancing the budget."
A production joint venture between Rio and BHP Billiton Ltd., the world’s second-largest miner, is still the subject of "active discussions," said Albanese, who declined to say whether it will be completed in 2011. The two, opposed by steelmakers in Europe and Asia, plan to combine mines, railroads, ports and workforces in Western Australia’s Pilbara region in a 50-50 joint venture to save at least $10 billion.
Following a two-month decline in China’s imports of iron ore, Albanese said the outlook for iron ore prices remains "reasonably healthy" for the rest of the year.