The Commission has opened a formal antitrust investigation into Anglo-Australian mining companies Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton under the EU rules on restrictive business practices (Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union – “TFEU”). Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton are respectively the second and third largest producers of iron ore in the world.

The proceedings concern the agreement signed on 5 December 2009 between BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto to establish a production joint venture covering the entirety of both companies' Western Australian iron ore assets. The Commission will in particular examine whether the joint venture would have a negative effect on competition on the worldwide market for seaborne iron ore.

Opening of proceedings does not imply that the Commission has conclusive evidence of an infringement but merely that the Commission will investigate the case as a matter of priority.

IP/10/45 – 25 January 2010