Zijin to stop copper smelter in Serbia for overhaul

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The Serbian arm of China’s Zijin Mining plans to stop production at its copper smelter for three months to carry out a planned work, it said in a statement on Thursday.

Serbia’s only copper smelting complex in the eastern town of Bor will be halted from April 20 until the end of July for improvements to bring it in line with environmental protection standards and increase capacity, it said.

The company’s 2022 annual plan listed the scheduled maintenance and also set total production at 85,000 tonnes of cathode copper, 1,580 kilograms of gold and around 13 tons of silver.

“After the modernisation of metallurgical units, the smelter in Bor will be functioning according to the highest environmental standards,” the statement said.

To boost economic growth, revenues and reduce unemployment, the Serbian government, which faces an election on April 3, has offered mineral resources to investors including China’s Zijin copper miner and Rio Tinto, sparking protests by environmental groups.

In 2018, Zijin Mining became Serbia’s strategic partner in RTB Bor, pledging to invest $1.26 billion in return for a 63% stake.

Last year, Zijin opened the Cukaru Peki underground copper and gold mine in the Bor region that is expected to make the Balkan country Europe’s second-largest copper producer.

China has so far invested billions of euros in Serbia, which is a candidate to join the European Union, mostly in the form of soft loans for infrastructure and energy projects, as part of its belt and road initiative to open foreign trade links.

(By Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by Barbara Lewis)

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