KKR plans to buy, merge BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto's diamond mines: report

Private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co (KKR) is considering buying and merging the diamond mines of Anglo-Australian mining giants BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto, The Sunday Times yesterday reported, without citing sources.

KKR is leading the $750-million auction race for BHP's Ekati diamond mine in Canada, while Harry Winston Diamond Corp and Stornoway Diamond Corp continue to be potential contenders.

Apollo Global Management and Gem Diamonds Ltd have dropped out of the sales process, the paper said.

New York-based KKR is planning to bid for Rio Tinto's Diavik mine located near Ekati and merge both operations to achieve synergies.

The two mines are located northeast of Yellowknife, where Rio Tinto, operating through its subsidiary Diavik Diamond Mines Inc, holds 60 per cent of the Diavik mine, and Canadian company Harry Winston Diamond Mines Ltd holds the remaining 40 per cent.

BHP holds 80 per cent of the Ekati mine, while two geologists who discovered the site, Charles Fipke and Dr. Stewart Blusson, each hold a 10-per cent stakes.