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BHP Billiton has divested its 37% non-operated stake in Richards Bay Minerals through the sale of the South African operation to Rio Tinto for $1.91bn.

The divestment marks the exit of BHP from the titanium minerals industry and doubles Rio’s current 37% stake in RBM to 74%.

A consortium of local communities and businesses own a 24% stake with the remaining 2% owned by RMB employees.

Rio Tinto Diamonds & Minerals chief executive Alan Davies said that the company’s titanium dioxide portfolio is further strengthened by doubling its stake in the operation.

"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 added.

Rio Tinto is responsible for the mineral sands mining and smelting operation as well as the marketing of the mine’s products.

The two companies agreed the transaction in February 2011.

BHP Billiton’s divestment of its entire interest in Richards Bay Minerals to Rio Tinto brought the company $1.91bn before adjustments.

"The divestment reflects the company’s commitment to a simpler, more scalable upstream portfolio," stated BHP in a release.

Image: Rio Tinto has now doubled its stake in Richards Bay Minerals acquiring 37% of BHP Billiton. Photo: Rio Tinto.