KKR, Apollo Global, Harry Winston eye BHP Billiton's Ekati diamond mine

Private equity firms KKR & Co, Apollo Global Management and Harry Winston Diamond Corp, are in talks to buy BHP Billiton's stake in the Ekati diamond mine in Canada, Bloomberg today reported, citing two people with knowledge of the matter.

The sale of its stake in the Ekati mine,  which produces about 11 per cent of the world's diamonds by value, may fetch the Anglo-Australian miner around $500 million to $750 million, said the news agency.

The sale is also part of the miner's strategy to exit the diamond mining business, which accounts for around 2.5 per cent of its annual operating profit.

In November 2011, BHP Billiton, the world's largest mining company had said that it would review its diamond assets and examine whether its presence in the diamond industry is consistent with its strategy of investing in expandable assets. 

A month later, it sold its entire 51-per cent stake in the Chidliak exploration project in northern Canada to joint venture partner Peregrine Diamonds, for $8.7 million. (See: BHP Billiton to sell Chidliak project to Peregrine Diamonds)

Melbourne-based BHP Billiton holds an 80-per cent stake in the Ekati mine, which is its only operating diamond mine. The remaining 20-per cent stake is held by geologists Charles Fipke and Dr. Stewart Blusson with 10 per cent each.