* $3 bln Darwendale project is single largest investment
* Shunned by Mugabe looks to China, Russia for help
* Zimbabwe looks to Russia for military equipment
(Recasts with details, quotes)
By MacDonald Dzirutwe and Nelson Banya
HARARE, Sept 16 A Russian consortium including
arms conglomerate Rostec have partnered to develop a $3 billion
platinum mining project in Zimbabwe, the single biggest
investment in the country since independence in 1980.
The government of President Robert Mugabe has been shunned
by the West for over a decade over alleged human rights abuses
and it has turned to China, Russia and other emerging powers for
aid, trade and investment.
Aside from the mining deal in the country with the world's
second-largest platinum reserves, there was talk of weapons.
Zimbabwe's defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi and army
commander Constantine Chiwenga held talks on Monday with
officials from Rosonobornexport, a Russian state agency
responsible for the import and export of military hardware.
Sekeramayi told state radio that the country had not been
able to buy spares for military equipment because of Western
"They have been briefing us on what they have and we were
also advising them on what we may need," Sekeramayi said.
"As you know, our defence forces have been equipped largely
with weaponry from Britain and other Western countries and we
are under sanctions from these countries and we cannot even buy
spare parts from them and naturally we have to look elsewhere."
State-owned Rostec owns companies including Kalashnikov, the
maker of the Ak-47 assault rifle.
Russian bank Vnesheconombank and industrial group Vi Holding
are also involved in the platinum project, which at $3 billion
equals over 20 percent of Zimbabwe's gross domestic product.
The project, which would include a mine, concentrator and
smelter, is located near Harare and comes at a time when
economic growth has been slowing after expanding at a blistering
pace in the past few years.
That rapid growth followed a decade of contraction and the
government is keen to get the ball rolling again as the jobless
rate remains close to 80 percent.
On Tuesday Mugabe, alongside Russia's Foreign Minister
Sergei Lavrov, oversaw the signing of an agreement to develop
what is expected to become Zimbabwe's largest platinum mine.
Ministry of mines officials said the consortium, which will
include Zimbabwean investors, will be called Great Dyke
Officials did not give details on the shareholding structure
but Mugabe has in the past said Zimbabweans would derive their
shareholding from the value of mineral resources underground -
which usually means they don't have to contribute capital.
Vnesheconombank is lead financier for the deal which will
target production of 250,000 ounces annually within three years.
A presentation by Zimbabwe's ministry of mines showed the
mine would have peak annual output of 800,000 ounces in 2024.
Mines Minister Walter Chidhakwa said the mine had a life of
20 years, but this could be extended to 34 years with further
exploration. He said Zimbabwe's current annual platinum
production stood at 430,000 ounces.
The world's two largest platinum producers, South
Africa-based Anglo American Platinum and Impala
Platinum, already have platinum operations in Zimbabwe.
(Editing by Ed Stoddard and Susan Thomas)