Global mining company, Rio Tinto, is investing $463m in the expansion of its Richards Bay Minerals (RBM) operation through the Zulti South project.
RBM currently operates four mines in the Zulti North lease area, a mineral separation plant and smelting facility. The Zulti North orebody grade is declining, hence the Zulti South mine is required to maintain the output of high-margin zircon and rutile, and provide sufficient ore to support titanium dioxide (TiO2) sales.
The Zulti South mine (Phase 1) will prop-up RBM’s supply of zircon and ilmenite over the life of the mine. Construction is scheduled to start in mid-2019, subject to the granting of all necessary permits, with first commercial production expected in late 2021.
“The 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,” said Jean-Sébastien Jacques, Rio Tinto chief executive.
Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe welcomed the announcement, saying: “As we intensify efforts to grow South Africa, we welcome investment injections such as this one, which bear testament to our efforts at turning this sector and economy around, for the benefit of our people.”