Chinese, Russian-owned companies place binding bids for Serbian copper mine

BELGRADE, Aug 28 (Reuters) – China's Zijin Mining and Russian-owned U Gold have sent valid bids for a strategic partnership in RTB Bor, Serbia's only copper mine and smelter, mining and energy minister Aleksandar Antic said on Tuesday.

In July, Belgrade invited bids for a partner to invest at least $350 million in debt-laden RTB Bor but did not say how big a stake it would offer in return.

Under the terms of the tender, the prospective partner would have to increase the company's production and keep its entire workforce of 5,000.

Serbia had previously failed three times to sell the mining complex, in 2007 and 2008, as bidders fell short of meeting the terms of those tenders.Serbia had previously failed three times to sell the mining complex.

"The (tender) commission … will evaluate bids in the shortest possible time, and I expect that as of January 1, 2019 we will have a strategic partner that will take over … the management of RTB Bor," Antic told reporters.

RTB Bor's copper exports in the first half of 2018 rose 23 percent to 15,000 tonnes, company data showed. Export revenue between January and June stood at $107.1 million and it sold copper worth an additional $30.9 million domestically.

To speed up reforms and spur growth, as recommended by the International Monetary Fund, Serbia must dispose of its remaining state-run companies.

(Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by Dale Hudson)