Udokan Auction Delayed 2nd Time

Bidders for the country's largest untapped copper field must wait until September to contest a government auction for the Udokan deposit after the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry pushed back the sale for a second time.

An official at the ministry said Tuesday that the auction would be delayed by a month from the previous schedule of Aug. 14, without giving a reason. The deadline for registering bids has also been extended by a month from June 11.

"The period for accepting bids has been extended," a spokeswoman for the subsoil agency within the ministry said.

The ministry initially scheduled July 17 for the sale of Udokan, one of only two metals deposits large enough to be declared strategic by the Kremlin and therefore off-limits to majority foreign ownership. The ministry has said it will set the starting price at 4.5 billion rubles ($190 million) and that about $1.6 billion would be required to bring the Udokan deposit into production.