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Russian investment house looking for $1bn to develop major zinc field

Russian investment house IFC Metropol is close to securing a $1 billion loan from state-run bank VEB to develop a major zinc field in eastern Siberia, Metropol’s head and main owner told Reuters."We have reached a stage of detailed negotiations with VEB," Mikhail Slipenchuk told Reuters in an interview. "It is ready to provide the loan of $1 billion for seven years at an interest rate of 10 percent."A VEB spokeswoman confirmed that the bank is considering the loan but has yet to approve it.Slipenchuk said it was also in negotiations over a similar loan from another state bank, Russia’s biggest lender Sberbank (SBER03.MM).Last year Metropol began extracting ore from the Ozernoye field, the world’s sixth-largest zinc deposit. Metropol plans to build a plant at the deposit to produce zinc concentrate it aims to sell at home and abroad.Ozernoye is estimated to contain 8.16 million tonnes of zinc and 1.6 million tonnes of lead, as well as 4,500 tonnes of silver.Metropol began building a mine at Ozernoye in 2006 with Toronto-listed Lundin Mining (LUN.TO). Last year Lundin pulled out of the project and Metropol has started looking for new partners."We are now discussing the sale of a stake in the project to firms involved in mining and metals business with two large Chinese companies and one Japanese," Slipenchuk said, declining to name them.A source close to negotiations told Reuters that Metropol had approached Metallurgical Corporation of China (MCC) (601618.SS), China National Machinery industry Corp (Sinomach) and Sumitomo (8053.T).Metropol plans to build the concentrator this year and to commission it in 2012 and to reach capacity in 2013."I hope by that time the plant will have reached its design capacity of processing 6 million tonnes of ore per year (to produce concentrate) with 312,000 tonnes of (contained) zinc," Slipenchuk said.He said with current prices of the metal the plant will be generating $1 billion in revenues per year. The buyers of the concentrate may be China, South Korea, Japan, as well as Russia’s Chelyabinsk Zinc Plant (CHZNq.L) (CHZN.MM).In Buryatia, a land of steppe and forest close to Russia’s border with Mongolia, Metropol also holds licences for the world’s third-largest zinc deposit, Kholodninskoye, Yermakovskoye berillium deposit, Nazarovskoye gold deposit and Talinskoye lignite field, which it has yet to start developing.Metropol is attempting to prove that developing Kholodninskoye does not contradict a ban on prospecting and mineral extraction near Lake Baikal, in the vicinity of which part of the field is located, Slipenchuk said. But he could not say when the development may start.Metropol is building a business centre in Buryatia’s capital Ulan Ude, a hotel on the shore of Baikal and plans to buy the Ulan Ude airport, reconstruct it and build a VIP terminal there, Slipenchuk said.

10 Monday January 2011  10:17

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