Rehabilitation at Richards Bay Minerals

Richards Bay Minerals

Our Richards Bay Minerals operation is a world leader in heavy mineral sands extraction and refining and is South Africa’s largest mineral sands producer

Zircon, rutile, iron, slag






2023 figures

Richards Bay, KwaZulu-Natal

Richards Bay Minerals (RBM) is a world leader in heavy mineral sands extraction and refining and is South Africa’s largest mineral sands producer. RBM mines the vast mineral rich sands of the northern KwaZulu-Natal province and produces predominantly zircon, rutile, iron and slag – materials used in everything from paint to smart phones to sunscreen.

RBM is a joint venture between Rio Tinto (74%) and Blue Horizon – a consortium of investors and our Host Communities Mbonambi, Sokhulu, Mkhwanazi and Dube – which owns 24%. The remaining shares are held in an employee trust.

RBM has been a major contributor to KwaZulu-Natal for more than 45 years.

An innovative approach to restoration

At RBM, where we mine sand dunes along the coast, we have been pioneering award-winning, progressive dune rehabilitation and have been learning and sharing lessons with the global scientific community for nearly 45 years.

After we remove the minerals from the sand, the dunes are reshaped to mimic their pre-mining topography. Topsoil retrieved from the front of the mining face (which contains the seed and organic matter of the local indigenous forest) is spread over the reshaped dunes and enriched with fast-growing annuals to begin biological processes and to protect the topsoil from wind and water erosion. When these annuals take root, helped by periodic windbreaks, they both green and stabilise the dunes.

To date, we have successfully rehabilitated more than 3,600 hectares at RBM using native plants and trees. Our rehabilitation program is gradually resulting in the re-establishment and restoration of a coastal dune forest and ecosystem. More than 35 scientific studies have been conducted by scientists around the world to learn from our work.


In April 2019, we approved the next stage in the development of RBM through the construction of the Zulti South project.

The $463 million (our share is $343 million) investment will sustain RBM’s current capacity and extend the life of the mine. RBM currently operates 4 mines in the Zulti North lease area, a mineral separation plant and smelting facility. The Zulti South mine will underpin RBM’s supply of zircon and ilmenite over the life of mine.

The Zulti South project is on full suspension. We will reassess a restart at an appropriate time.

Latest RBM releases

Richard Bay Mineral dune rehabilitation

Cultural heritage

In the 1990s, the exploration of the sand dunes at Richards Bay uncovered not only valuable minerals but hidden treasures – archaeological remains that provide a unique opportunity to reconstruct a historical record of the area. Pottery shards found on the sites revealed different ethno-linguistic groups, as did necklaces, beads, smoking pipes and tools. Many sites had hearths or fireplaces.

RBM established an archaeological program to protect the cultural heritage of the area in partnership with anthropologists, the KwaZulu-Natal Museum and the Amafa/Heritage KwaZulu-Natal the provincial heritage conservation agency for KwaZulu-Natal. The project has involved excavating and recording hundreds of archaeological sites. Exhibits and examples of artefacts are housed at the Mananga Heritage Centre in the Mbonambi community in KwaZulu-Natal – a series of traditional rondavels that is also a valuable educational resource for local schools and a living cultural monument.

Sourcing locally

RBM is committed to sustainable development, and to working in partnership with government, suppliers and our Host Communities.

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Discover more about life at Rio Tinto.

RBM downloads

RBM Supplier Development Program
1.69 MB
RBM Social and Labour Plan
1.39 MB
150 KB
2022 Investing in our communities
824 KB
2021 Invested in South Africa
15.65 MB
2020 Invested in South Africa
2.43 MB

Contact RBM

The Farm RBM
PO Box 401
Richards Bay 3900
South Africa