Russia's Potanin buys partner's stake in copper and gold mine near China

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian billionaire Vladimir Potanin has bought his partner Grigory Berezkin’s stake in the Bystrinsky mine in Russia’s Far East, representatives for the two businessmen said on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: Vladimir Potanin, co-owner of Norilsk Nickel, attends an agreement signing ceremony with the Krasnoyarsk region's government, in Moscow, Russia December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

Russian mining giant Norilsk Nickel, known as Nornickel and which is co-owned by Potanin and holds a 50% stake in the remote copper and gold mine, has been looking for a partner in the ambitious project for several years.

A further 36.7% stake in the mine, which was completed in 2017 and has an operational capacity of 10 million tonnes of ore, has been held since 2017 by CIS Natural Resources, a fund shared by Berezkin and Potanin.

Berezkin’s stake in this fund has been bought by one of the firms in Potanin’s investment vehicle Interros.

The sale was first reported by the Kommersant daily and confirmed by representatives for Interros, Berezkin’s ESN Group and Nornickel on Tuesday.

Nornickel, the world’s second-largest nickel and top palladium producer, had been looking to attract investment partners for the $1.3 billion project, and a 13.33% stake was bought by the Chinese-owned Highland Fund in 2015.

The mine is located some 400 km (250 miles) by rail from the Chinese border in the Siberian region of Chita. Nornickel, has previously said it plans to focus exports from Bystrinsky to China, the world’s top iron ore consumer.

Potanin said last November that Nornickel could decide on a possible initial public offering (IPO) of the firm running the Bystrinsky mine in the third quarter of 2020.

The mine is expected to reach full operating capacity in mid-2020, Nornickel has said.

(Interros corrects itself that one of its firms, not its Winter Capital, bought the stake)

Reporting by Anastasia Lyrchikova and Gleb Stolyarov; Writing by Polina Ivanova and Alexandra Hudson