Chemezov Considers Norilsk As Partner in Udokan Venture

Russian Technologies is considering Norilsk Nickel as a new partner in its consortium with Metalloinvest, which is bidding to develop the giant Udokan copper deposit, Sergei Chemezov, head of the state corporation, said Friday.

The announcement comes after Norilsk chairman Vladimir Potanin said earlier this month that he was pulling the miner out of a solo bid for Udokan.

But to team up with Russian Technologies, Norilsk would have to hand over all its other copper assets to the potential joint venture, Chemezov said.

"If Norilsk Nickel's board takes the decision to include all the copper mines that they have on their books, then we would be ready to consider a potential partnership," Chemezov said at a news conference, Interfax reported.

A Norilsk spokeswoman was not immediately available for comment Friday.

Chemezov denied that Russian Technologies had held talks with Oleg Deripaska's Basic Element holding, which is behind another bid for the Udokan mine — and had not signed an agreement with Basic Element similar to its pact with Metalloinvest.

In July, Russian Technologies and Metalloinvest, half-owned by billionaire Alisher Usmanov, agreed to set up a joint venture on the basis of Udokan. Russian Technologies is thought to have a 25 percent stake in the potential venture, which is open to other partners.

Metalloinvest is currently behind one of three remaining bids for the Chita region deposit, which will be auctioned off Sept. 14. The starting price for the license is 4.5 billion rubles ($183 million), and the winning bidder will get a license for 20 years for the deposit, estimated to be capable of producing 15 percent of the country's annual copper output.

Another bid is from a consortium that includes Urals Mining and Metal Company, the country's second-biggest copper producer, and state-run Russian Railways. Billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov's Onexim Group has already pulled out of the race over a shareholder conflict of interest.