Rio Tinto approves $463m development at mineral sands project

Rio Tinto will advance its subsidiary company Richards Bay Minerals (RBM) through the construction of the Zulti South mineral sands project in South Africa.

RBM, in which Rio Tinto owns a 74 per cent stake, is the largest mineral sands producer and beneficiation company in South Africa. RBM is responsible for $343 million of the $463 million required for the project.

The Zulti South development, which will buoy RBM’s production by complementing the four existing mines in the declining Zulti North lease area, is expected to start construction in mid-2019 for a late 2021 production start. The development will produce high-margin zircon, rutile and ilmenite.

Rio Tinto chief executive Jean-Sébastien Jacques called Zulti South one of the best undeveloped mineral sands deposits in the industry.

“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,” he said.

The Zulti South development would ensure the company maintains its contribution to partner communities, Mbonambi, Sokhulu, Mkhwanazi and Dube, according to Rio Tinto Energy and Minerals chief executive Bold Baatar.

Rio Tinto has also disclosed its global tax payments, which included $6.6 billion of taxes and royalties in 2018, up from $5.1 billion in 2017. The company’s Australian operations accounted for $4.8 billion of these taxes.

The remainder was accounted for by Canada ($386 million), Chile ($332 million), the United States ($331 million), Mongolia ($308 million), Europe ($146 million) and Africa ($132 million).

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