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|Jean-Marc Lieberherr (right), general manager of Sales and Marketing for Rio Tinto Diamonds Credit: Jewelry News Asia|
The company bought BHP’s 37 percent interest in Richards Bay Minerals for $1.7 billion.
Alan Davies, Rio’s CEO, said that doubling the stake would strengthen the company’s position in the titanium dioxide market.
“Demand for feedstocks is expected to grow strongly, needing the equivalent of a new operation the size of RBM to be built every two-and-a-half years,” Davies told Mining Weekly.
RBM has enough mineral resources to support 20 years of production. In 2011, it accounted for 14 percent of the world’s titanium dioxide feedstock sales and 18 percent of the globe’s zircon sales.
The company generated $1.2 billion in revenues last year, 41 percent of which was due to the sale of feedstocks. A quarter of the South African company is owned by its employees and a group of communities and businesses, as is required by the country’s economic-empowerment legislation.