ZIMBABWE is thrashing out a "resources for arms" deal with Russia which may see the country being supplied with military helicopters and other hardware in exchange for platinum. A report carried by Russia's Kommersant business daily and online publications yesterday said officials from the former superpower who were in the country in April all but secured an inter-governmental agreement on stimulating investment and defence, under which a state corporation, Russian Technologies, would supply military helicopters in exchange for mineral rights to platinum deposits in Darwendale.
However, checks yesterday by the Zimbabwe Independent with Russian diplomats in Harare indicated the military helicopters in question may actually be old ones which had been taken for repairs in the world's largest country in terms of surface area.
"The helicopters in question are not new but old ones which had been taken to Russia for repairs," one diplomat said last night. "Probably that's what they are referring to."
Reports say the Darwendale mining area which has attracted the Russians' interest in the mineral-rich Great Dyke has platinum reserves as well as other valuable metals such as gold, nickel, copper and palladium, among others.
A senior mining executive confirmed to the Independent yesterday Russians were in the country in April and, apart from meeting government and military officials, they also met players in the mining sector to glean information.
"Yes, discussions are taking place and in fact I met the visitors referred to in April," the mining executive said.
"They did not disclose how they proposed to pay for the (platinum) deposits but were certainly holding discussions and asked to meet with me to talk about the area in question."
The executive said the major sticking point could however be differences in valuation of the resource between government and the Russians.
He said the Russians wanted government to take into consideration investment, financing and operating costs to extract and process the mineral in evaluating the deal.
"There will be a gap in expectation on the part of our government which clings to the belief that minerals in the ground are valued at the selling price of estimated metal content," the executive said.
"This ignores investment, financing and operating costs to extract and process the minerals. So if government expects to receive billions worth of military equipment in exchange for bare ground, it's not going to happen!"
It is understood Russchrome and RusszimMining, which have links to the army, are part of the deal. ZDF spokesperson Colonel Overson Mugwisi said he was unaware of the deal.