Rio Tinto enters potash business via JV with Russia's JSC Acron's Canadian unit

Rio Tinto, the Anglo-Australian mining group has entered into a joint venture with North Atlantic Potash Inc (NAP), the Canadian subsidiary of Russia's JSC Acron, for exploring potash a putting up a mine in Saskatchewan.

Both companies did not disclose the financial terms of the deal.

The deal comes after its arch rival, BHP Billiton's hostile $39-billion bid for Potash  Corp of Saskatchewan, the world's biggest producer, was thwarted by the  Canadian government, which did not want  the valuable Canadian resource to fall under foreign ownership.

Under the JV, London-based Rio Tinto will initially acquire a 40-per cent stake in nine blocks covering an area of 241,000 hectares of NAP, with the option to later raise its stake to as much as 80 per cent.

NAP is currently the second biggest landholder in the potash belt of southern Saskatchewan, holding of 26 exploration permits in more than 2.7 million acres.

The exploration area covered in the JV extends from the eastern shore of Last Mountain Lake, about 40 km north of Regina, through to Broadview.