Canadian miner Kinross Gold Corp. has announced that it will sell its Russian assets for $680 million to Russia’s Highland Gold Mining, and its affiliates. This appears to be the first time that a major Western company has sold an asset in Russia since Russia invaded Ukraine.
Kinross stated it would receive $400m for the Arctic Kupol mine, the surrounding exploration licenses, and an additional $280 million to fund the Udinsk mining project until 2027. While the Russian Ministry of Industry and Trade Denis Manturov supported the deal, it is still being approved by them.
However, the sale may face unexpected difficulties. Source close to the transaction says Canadian authorities are investigating whether Highland Gold Mining’s beneficial owner is Andrey Kostin, the Russian president of VTB Bank Andrey Kostin. Andrey Kostin has been on Canada’s sanctions list since 2019. Canadians are forbidden from dealing with such people.
Vladislav Sviblov is the official owner of Highland Gold Mining. He was 41 years old and used to be the manager at PIK Group, a Russian real-estate developer. Forbes magazine reports that Sviblov has acquired mining assets in Russia, worth more than $1.5 billion, using VTB Bank loans.
They include the Ozernoye Polymetallic Deposit, a 40% stake at Highland Gold Mining (acquired by Roman Abramovich), and Gold of Kamchatka. (acquired via Viktor Vekselberg).
Trans-Siberian Gold, a UK-listed company, as well as other assets. Sviblov was able to take control of companies that produce over 16 tonnes of annual gold in less than three years, competing with the top Russian gold majors Polyus Gold and Nordgold.
VTB Bank agreed to finance multi-billions of dollars for Sviblov’s development of new deposits and mines. Some loan agreements were signed by Andrey Kostin, the president of VTB Bank, which is unusual considering the small size of the loans.
Russian media suggested that Vladislav Sviblov and VTB Bank have “special relations”. VTB Bank also owns over 20% of PIK Group, Sviblov’s former employer.
VTB Bank was subject to “blocking” sanctions in the USA, Canada and the UK. These restrictions include the blocking of all assets and bans on transactions involving these banks in their currencies as well as any counterparties.
Since 2018, Andrey Kostin is under US sanctions. Canada has since 2019, and EU sanctions have been in place since 2022.
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