Rio Tinto approves $463 million expansion of South African mine

Rio Tinto and its partners have agreed to invest US$463 million in the construction of the Zulti South project in South Africa, in an attempt to expand production from the existing Zulti North site in KwaZulu-Natal.

The Anglo-Australian mining giant said the Zulti South project will extend the presence of its majority-owned subsidiary Richards Bay Minerals (RBM) in the country. RBM is currently South Africa’s largest mineral sands producer.

Rio will contribute $343 million to the project, which will help RBM maintain output of high-margin zircon and rutile as orebody grades decline at the Zulti North mining lease.

Construction of Zulti South is scheduled to start in mid-2019, subject to the granting of all necessary permits, with first commercial production expected in late 2021.

“Rio Tinto has a long history in South Africa, and today’s investment underscores our commitment for the coming decades and beyond,” said Rio chief executive Jean-Sebastien Jacques.

“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.”