2014 – The world’s most mysterious, and expensive, hole in the ground has been ceremonially opened by the Russian Foreign and Trade Ministers, Sergei Lavrov and Denis Manturov. At least that’s what they say they did a month ago in Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe. The hole to be dug is to cost the Russian state budget and banking system at least $600 million, rising to $3 billion in three years; and then $4.8 billion by 2024 when mine, ore-processing plant and refinery are fully operational. They have also disclosed the list of Russian and Zimbabwean partners in the deal. Calling themselves Afromet, the Russians are Vitaly Mashitsky , Sergei Chemezov, and Vnesheconombank (VEB) represented by Alexander Ivanov, son of the presidential chief of staff, Sergei Ivanov. The Zimbabweans are calling themselves Pen East Investments. Together, they have picked the name Great Dyke Investments.
Reportedly, its board is chaired by Colonel Tshinga Dube, who is also the chair of Marange Resources, a controversial diamond miner, and head of Zimbabwe Defence Industries (ZDI). Another director of Pen East is Caroline Sandura, a former board member of the state mining development company, ZMDC.
There’s a catch: no Russian involved in what is billed as the Darwendale platinum project wants to admit what he is doing; what protection from loss has been installed by the Kremlin for the money; and why a new platinum mine in east Africa can be a profitable way of spending Russian state money when the country’s platinum miners, Norilsk Nickel and Russian Platinum, say they wouldn’t touch the project with a barge-pole.
On September 16, the officials involved posed for pictures to confirm the appearance of the deal. Below left, Lavrov holds hands with Mugabe, while Manturov covers Lavrov’s back. Below right, Manturov holds hands while Lavrov covers Manturov’s back.
Lavrov has had considerable experience protecting Russian corporate interests in west Africa, where he has intervened in the Republic of Guinea and in Nigeria on behalf of Oleg Deripaska’s United Company Rusal. Lavrov’s interventions have been unsuccessful.
Sergei Kuznetsov, spokesman for Chemezov, was asked to confirm that while the left hand of Rostec is taking care of the platinum mine, the right hand will be arranging arms exports. According to Kuznetsov, the idea is “far fetched”.
Rostec has republished a Kommersant report referring to VEB as confirming that one of its functions “is to support the promotion of Russian goods, services and investments abroad…In this regard, the Bank is ready to consider requests from established Russian companies for financial support of their foreign economic projects based on VEB’s principle for profitability.”