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The Guardian: Russia wipes £130m from gold miner by threatening to revoke licences: ‘challenged by Oleg Mitvol’

Marianne Barriaux
Thursday November 30, 2006

Russia said it was looking at revoking the licences of Peter Hambro, the gold mining company, in a fresh challenge yesterday to western businesses operating in the country. The Russian authorities have already attacked Shell, TNK-BP and ExxonMobil over their environmental records. Shares in Peter Hambro fell nearly 14% to £10.25, wiping more than £130m off the value of the Aim-listed firm.

Oleg Mitvol, the deputy head of Russia’s environmental watchdog Rosprirodnadzor, has said Peter Hambro is not exploiting and developing two of its gold licences nor three chrome ones.

But the company said it had already sold its interest in the three chrome licences, which means the challenge only affects the two gold ones it owns in the Yamal region of western Siberia.

The group, which owns 54 licences in Russia, is understood to have had its two gold deposits inspected towards the beginning of the year, resulting in a penalty of £200 over deficiencies in the filing of documents on the group’s exploration assets in the region.

Peter Hambro, the founder and executive chairman, said the news came as a surprise. “We’ve heard nothing from the national resources ministry,” he said.

Company representatives were seeking clarification from the ministry and relevant authorities, he said.

There were suggestions Mr Mitvol’s inquiry was linked to environmental concerns. Mr Hambro pointed out that the International Finance Corporation, a member of the World Bank Group, has a 3.5% shareholding in the company, which he said would negate such concerns.

The environment watchdog’s actions do not affect Peter Hambro’s main mines, Pokrovskiy and Pioneer, which were given a clean bill of health last year.

Critics of Russia’s approach say it could damage the flow of foreign investment into the country. Charles Kernot of Seymour Pierce said the problem could be a local one that would be overcome. “Alternatively, this is the first of a thousand cuts and the honeymoon period presented by the company’s joint Russian-British management team is drawing to a close.” But he added that the fact the group’s main business was given a clean bill of health suggested the market had over-reacted.

The news comes after Shell, BP and ExxonMobil were challenged by Mr Mitvol. The environmental watchdog has threatened to revoke Shell’s Sakhalin-2 project licence on ecological grounds.

TNK-BP, the Anglo-Russian oil venture, has been threatened with licence withdrawal and a new investigation is set to be launched into ExxonMobil’s Sakhalin-1.,,1960094,00.html and its sister websites,,,,, and are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

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