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Russia Bids $3 Billion To Control This Metal

One metal seems to be seeing a lot of action this week: platinum.

That metal of course has seen its price boosted lately by mine strikes in the world's top-producing nation of South Africa. And the strong market appears to be attracting some big attention from international financiers.

Particularly in the world's number-three platinum producing country: Zimbabwe. Where this week the government unveiled one of the biggest mining development plans going on the planet.

Zimbabwe's mines minister Walter Chidakwa said that the country has struck an ambitious deal with a Russian consortium for platinum development in the country. With the plans reportedly including incoming investment in new mines, concentrating plants, and even a smelter for platinum group elements.

The price tag for these projects is significant. With initial development of open-pit platinum mines pegged at up to $500 million. And construction of smelting and other facilities possibly taking the total Russian investment as high as $3 billion.

That's a big-money play. Made all the more interesting by the people behind it--namely, Russian state corporations Rostec and Vnesheconombank.

In effect, the platinum development will be a Russian government project. Which sets up some interesting dynamics, given that Russia is already the world's number two producer of platinum.

If this deal does cement Russian control of Zimbabwe's platinum sector, it could mean that two of the world's top three producers now fall outside of western control. Potentially having implications for supply down the road--especially given that output from the planned mining developments is projected at up to 600,000 ounces of platinum yearly.

Both Rostec and Vnesheconombank have both been the subject of western sanctions recently--against the corporations directly, or their senior officers. Which may explain why these firms are looking to a place like Zimbabwe to grow their metal output. And with Zimbabwe being one of only three major platinum-producing countries on the planet, the aggressive Russian move here could have big implications for this market going forward.

Here's to a billion-dollar battle,

Dave Forest

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