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Zijin Mining closes Serbian copper complex takeover

Zijin Mining Group Co. Ltd. invested US$350 million in RTB Bor Group on Dec. 17, completing its acquisition of a 63% stake in the Serbian state-run copper complex, according to a Dec. 18 notification on the the Serbian government website.

Serbian Minister of Mining and Energy Aleksandar Antic and Zijin Mining Vice President and Executive Director George Fang signed an agreement in Belgrade on Dec. 18 finalizing the Chinese company's partnership in the copper mining and smelting complex, which is the main employer in eastern Serbia.

Antic said he expects Serbia to be the third-largest copper producer in Europe, with mining increasing its share of the country's GDP to 5%, from about 1% currently.

Zijin won the tender for the mining complex at the end of August, pledging to invest US$1.26 billion and pay off the complex's US$200 million debt burden. The terms of the partnership also require Zijin to increase Bor's production and retain its 5,000-person workforce.

RTB Bor's copper exports rose 23% to 15,000 tonnes in the first half.

The sale was part of the Serbian government's plan to dispose of debt-laden state-run companies to help shore up the budget and increase economic growth.

China has invested over U$1 billion in Serbia as part of its belt and road initiative, mostly in the form of soft loans to support highway and energy projects.