JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Diversified miner Rio Tinto on Monday approved the construction of the $463-million Zulti South project − the next stage in the development of mineral sands producer Richards Bay Minerals (RBM), in South Africa's KwaZulu-Natal province.
The project will sustain RBM's current capacity, as well as extend its mine life.
RBM currently operates four mines in the Zulti North lease area, where the grade of the orebody is declining. The Zulti South mine is required to maintain the output of high-margin zircon and rutile, as well as provide sufficient ore to support titanium dioxide sales.
Construction on Zulti South is expected to start in the middle of this year, subject to the granting of the required permits. First commercial production is expected late in 2021.
The investment will be fully self-funded from RBM’s cash flows, with no additional debt or recourse to Rio Tinto, which holds a 74% interest in RBM and manages the operation.
“Rio Tinto has a long history in South Africa and today’s investment underscores our commitment for the coming decades and beyond. Zulti South is one of the best undeveloped minerals sand deposits in the industry and will significantly extend RBM’s position as a world-class, first-quartile asset.
"The long-term fundamentals of the market remain strong and production from Zulti South will commence in time to fill a widening supply gap, ensuring RBM’s position as a leader in the sector and delivering strong returns to our shareholders,” Rio Tinto CEO Jean-Sebastian Jacques commented in a news release.
Rio Tinto Energy & Minerals CE Bold Baatar added that the investment in Zulti South will ensure that RBM maintains its contribution to the KwaZulu-Natal province and the communities in which it operates.
"We want to recognise the support from the government of South Africa, the KwaZulu-Natal provincial leadership and, most importantly, the invaluable support of our host communities – Mbonambi, Sokhulu, Mkhwanazi and Dube – in securing the future of this world-class business.”