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Serbia Seeks Investment in Trepca Mines Ahead of Kosovo Talks

May 17 (Bloomberg) -- Serbia offered to U.S. New Generation Power LLC to invest in Trepca lead and zinc mines in Kosovo as it seeks to reclaim full control over the company located in its breakaway province.

Serbs and Kosovo Albanians have conflicting claims over the once large mining company, whose facilities in northern Kosovo are controlled by Serbs and by the Albanian majority in central areas. Kosovo and Serbia are to resume European-Union mediated talks next week in Brussels on normalizing relations more than five years since Kosovo declared independence.

Chicago, Illinois-based New Generation Power, or NGP, will conduct a study on possible upgrades of Trepca mines and processing plants, while also seeking to explore lithium reserves in Serbia, NGP President Chirijeev Kathuria told reporters after signing a cooperation agreement in Belgrade today.

“Trepca is one of the most import natural resources” in Europe for lead, zinc and rare earth metals, Chirijeev said. “We understand that legal and ownership issues need to be solved” and “NGP has been in contact with the U.S. State Department before signing the document.” The U.S. have recognized Kosovo as have 22 of 27 EU countries.

The deal with NGP is “important for economic aspects of our negotiations with Kosovo” Serbia’s Mining Minister Milan Bacevic said. “Arrival of foreign companies improves our position in the political dialogue” with Kosovo and is “the best way to gain control of the part of Trepca that we don’t control.”

Part of Trepca held by Serbs produced about 11,000 tons of lead concentrate and almost 8,000 tons of zinc concentrate last year, the company’s general manager Jovan Dimkic said. Chirijeev said such output is about 15 percent of capacity, while NGP would seek to boost that to 85 percent.

“There is no shortage of capital, we have talked to our global investment banks,” he said. “Trepca is one of the most attractive investment opportunities today in Europe” and NGP will consider public-private partnership with both Serbian and Kosovo governments, without seeking a majority stake in Trepca.

To contact the reporter on this story: Gordana Filipovic in Belgrade at gfilipovic@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James M. Gomez at jagomez@bloomberg.net

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