Rio Tinto moves iron, steel staff out of China: report

SYDNEY Thu Jul 16, 2009 12:20am EDT

A employee is seen at Rio Tinto Limited Shanghai Representative Office in Shanghai July 8, 2009. REUTERS/Aly Song

A employee is seen at Rio Tinto Limited Shanghai Representative Office in Shanghai July 8, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Aly Song

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SYDNEY (Reuters) - Rio Tinto Ltd/Plc has evacuated staff in China involved in research of the iron ore and steel industry in response to the detention of some of its iron ore traders by state authorities, the Australian Financial Review reported on Thursday.

The unsourced report from Shanghai also said other foreign groups were moving employees out of China until conditions there become more certain.

A Rio Tinto spokesman in Melbourne, Ian Head, said he could not immediately comment on the report, which said the unidentified number of staff were moved out on Wednesday.

Stern Hu, Rio Tinto's head of iron ore marketing in China, and three other members of the Shanghai-based iron ore team were detained in early July on suspicion of stealing state secrets.

Hu, a Chinese-born Australian citizen, was accused of obtaining and passing on the Chinese industry's negotiating position, sources with knowledge of the circumstances have said.

Rio Tinto's China team carry out some negotiations and manage operational details of term contracts for iron ore, a key ingredient in steel making, as well as tracking market information.

(Reporting by James Regan)

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