Monday, June 03, 2013

(NEWZIMBABWE) Russian fixer handed rich platinum concession
02/06/2013 00:00:00
by Staff Reporter

A RUSSIAN fixer handed an “exclusive licence” to develop the Darwendale platinum deposits in 2006 has said he is ready to bail-out and sell his shares on the open market if the multi-million dollar project fails to get off the ground.

Alexander Chepik’s Center for Business Cooperation with Foreign Countries partners the Zimbabwean military a joint venture which was established to develop the country’s second biggest platinum mine at Darwendale.

But several years after Ruschroome Mining – headed by defence ministry permanent secretary, Martin Rushwaya - was formed, Chepik says he is still looking for investors to pump-in the US$350 million needed to get the project off the ground.

Darwendale is said to have proven platinum reserves of 19 tons and total resources of 755 tons taking into account other metals, such as palladium, gold, nickel, copper and others.

The state-owned Russian Technologies was, last year, also reported to have secured another concession in the area in exchange for military helicopters.

Ruschrome says it has so far invested US$10 million in preparing the ground at what is expected to be the country’s second biggest platinum mine after the Zimplats operation which is owned by South Africa-based Impala Platinum.

Chepik however told Russian media at the weekend that if efforts to find investors to help develop the project fail, he would initiate Plan B, which was to sell his shares on the open market.

The deal appears to have stalled after Chepik fell out with another Russian investor, the billionaire Viktor Vekselberg, who pulled out, accusing Ruschrome of reneging on an agreement to sell a 50 percent stake in the project to his Renova Group.

Renova subsequently launched a legal challenge claiming that a German lawyer who received a $5 million fee after being recommended by Chepik’s firm failed to prepare the share sale contract between Renova's AfroAsia Consulting and Ruschrome.
Russia’s Trade and Industry Chamber mediation court however, dismissed Renova's claims.

Chepik told the Moscow Times newspaper at the weekend that Renova wanted to prepare the field at Darwendale for development and then sell it to other investors, a plan opposed by the Zimbabwean authorities.

And with the Renova deal now off the table, Chepik said he was targeting a possible partnership with Norilsk Nickel, Russia's leading platinum producer.

"They are a priority for us," Chepik he said.

A Norilsk Nickel spokeswomen said while the company was looking to invest in the country, including the Darwendale project, "no positive decisions have been made at this point in time."

Chepik also boasted about his ties with the local leadership and touted his role as a go-between for potential Russian investors. He warned Russian companies against by-passing his firm in their dealings with the country.

"Some Russian investors were trying to get around us, but it was not well-received within the government. Laws in Zimbabwe work better than in Russia," Chepik said.

The Russian businessman also spoke of his admiration for President Robert Mugabe saying: "I am fascinated by him. He is an articulate man with a great sense of style and a sharp memory. He never forgets anything."

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