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

Products

1978 | 1927

Permanent Employees | Contractors

74%

Ownership

1976

Started

2018 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 produce predominantly ilmenite, rutile and zircon – 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 the communities of KwaZulu-Natal for more than 40 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 40 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, using native plants and trees, we have successfully rehabilitated more than 3,311 hectares at RBM. More than 35 scientific studies have been conducted by scientists around the world to learn from our work.

Growth

In 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 mine life. RBM currently operates four mines in the Zulti North lease area, a mineral separation plant and smelting complex. The Zulti South mine will underpin RBM’s supply of zircon and ilmenite over the life of mine.

The Zulti South project will also create economic opportunity for the region, with more than 97% of the total spend in South Africa, with a minimum of R0.5bn in spend slated to benefit local communities.

At its highest level, the project will require approximately 1,000 contractor jobs; on average 300-500 jobs will be needed through the course of the project.

Employees at RBM

RBM Communities

  • Cultural Heritage
  • Sourcing Locally

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 programme 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.

RBM is committed to sustainable development, and to working in partnership with government, suppliers and our Host Communities. In 2019 RBM and the Host Communities signed an agreement securing local business participation in the Zulti South project. This pioneering agreement directly benefits our Host Communities by setting aside a portion of project procurement for community-based businesses, and giving them access to business opportunities that would otherwise not have been available.

R6.2B

Economic Contribution

R1.4B

Local Procurement

R132M

Community Investment

R985M

Taxes & Royalties

2018 figures. Taxes: R747 million; Royalties: R238 million.