Sun, Sep 02, 2018 - Page 16 News List

Chinese group to take over Serbia’s largest copper mine

AFP, BELGRADE

Serbia has picked a Chinese firm to take over its debt-hit copper mine after the company offered to invest US$1.26 billion, Serbian Minister of Energy and Mining Aleksandar Antic said on Friday.

The deal, which gives China’s Zijin Mining Group Co (紫金礦業集團) a 63 percent stake in the RTB Bor mining and smelting complex in eastern Serbia, marks the latest expansion of Beijing’s economic footprint in the Balkan region.

As part of the agreement, Zijin has also promised to cover RTB Bor’s US$200 million debt and keep 5,000 jobs at the mine, Antic told reporters.

The contract is expected to be signed this month and Zijin could start managing the company early next year, Antic said.

A Chinese company bought Serbia’s sole steel mill in 2016, while other firms have built infrastructure projects across the Balkans as part of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative.

The deals have raised concerns in Brussels and Western Europe over growing Chinese influence in the region, as well as risky loan terms for host countries.

The mining company became a burden on the nation’s struggling economy because of mismanagement and international sanctions during the 1990s regime of then-Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic.

Due to a lack of investment and outdated technology, RTB Bor’s annual copper haul plunged from more than 170,000 tonnes before 2000 to less than 40,000 tonnes in 2005.

It exported 15,000 tonnes of copper in the first half of this year with total revenue of US$107 million, a 23 percent increase in comparison with the previous year, company data showed.

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