Rio Tinto is increasing its stake in Richards Bay Minerals (RBM) in South Africa to 74% through the acquisition of BHP Billiton’s 37% interest. Rio Tinto manages RBM and markets its products, including titanium dioxide feedstocks, high-purity iron, zircon and rutile. In line with South Africa’s Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment legislation, the remaining 26% is owned by a consortium of local communities and businesses (24%) and RBM employees (2%).

The acquisition was triggered by BHP Billiton’s decision to exercise a put option agreed between Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton as part of RBM’s restructuring in 2009. The final consideration for the acquisition will be determined through a previously agreed valuation process. Completion is subject to regulatory approvals.

Rio Tinto’s global titanium dioxide business, Rio Tinto Iron & Titanium, includes RBM; its wholly owned Rio Tinto Fer et Titane operation in Quebec; and its QIT Madagascar Minerals operation (80%).

The sale by BHP Billiton marks its exit from the titanium minerals industry.