Australia bans alumina exports to Russia, sources coal for Ukraine

March 20 (Reuters) - Australia has imposed an immediate ban on exports of alumina and aluminum ores, including bauxite, to Russia, the government said on Sunday as part of its ongoing sanctions against Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine.

"Russia relies on Australia for nearly 20 percent of its alumina needs," the Australian government said in a joint statement from several ministries, including the prime minister's office. It added that the move will limit Russia's capacity to produce aluminium, which is a critical export for Russia.

"The Government will work closely with exporters and peak bodies that will be affected by the ban to find new and expand existing markets," the statement said.

Anglo-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto (RIO.L) owns an 80% stake in Queensland Alumina Ltd (QAL) in a joint venture with Russia's Rusal International PJSC (RUAL.MM), the world's second-largest aluminum producer.

Last week, Australia imposed sanctions on two Russian businessmen with links to its mining industry, one of them being billionaire Oleg Deripaska who holds stakes in QAL. read more

Ships wait to be loaded at the Rio Tinto alumina refinery in Gove, also known as Nhulunbuy, located 650 km (404 miles) east of Darwin in Australia's Northern Territory July 16, 2013. Picture taken July 16, 2013. REUTERS/David Gray

Australia has so far imposed a total of 476 sanctions on 443 individuals, including businessmen close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and 33 entities, including most of Russia’s banking sector and all entities responsible for the country's sovereign debt, the statement said.

The government also said it will donate at least 70,000 tonnes of thermal coal to Ukraine to meet its energy needs.

Australian coal producers have been bombarded with calls for supply over the past few weeks from Ukraine and other countries like Poland that have been reliant on Russian supplies. read more

"The Australian Government has worked with the Australian coal industry to source supplies," the statement said.

Whitehaven Coal has quickly arranged a shipment, and the Government is now working with the company and the Ukrainian and Polish Governments to deliver the supplies at the earliest available opportunity, the statement said.

The government also pledged additional military equipment and humanitarian aid for Ukraine.

Reporting by Praveen Menon; Editing by Aurora Ellis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.