* Foreign firms can tap mines with up to 250 tonnes-paper
MOSCOW Aug 9 (Reuters) – The Russian government drafted a bill that will facilitate the access of companies with foreign capital to its major gold reserves, Kommersant business daily reported on Thursday.
According to the newspaper, the bill will allow foreign-owned businesses to mine deposits with up to 250 tonnes of gold, up five times from the previous cap of 50 tonnes set in 2008, without facing additional regulation from the state.
The current Russian legislation classifies gold reserves of over 50 tonnes as deposits of “federal significance”, allowing the state to ban a foreign-aligned company from mining it, in the event of a “threat to the state defence and security”.
The move could attract new foreign players to the market, but analysts cited by the newspaper say it will benefit Russia’s largest gold miners, Polyus Gold and Polymetal , both involving foreign capital.
Russian companies produced 209 tonnes of gold in 2011, up 3.6 percent year-on-year, but the growth could slow down to 3 percent this year as output has been declining in several mines, an industry lobby group said last month.