|Active in||Venezuela, United States, China|
|Targeted||construction minerals, gold|
Agapov Group is an investment fund controlled by the hardly-known Russian oligarch, Andrei Agapov, who is domiciled in London. Its main mining asset appears to be Rusoro Mining which listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange in November 2006. The Group itself has an enigmatic - if not murky - provenance. (Industry journalists spell Agapov`s first name variously as Andrei, Andre - and even Andres!)
According to Gold Fields, whose loss-making gold assets in Venezuela were sold at a profit to Rusoro in October 2007 [John Helmer, Mineweb 14 October 2007], the Group`s only Russian connections at the time were through "the nationalities of Andrei Agapov and his father Vladimir who control the company from London and Caracas; and a handful of others on the board of directors or the advisory board." [Helmer, ibid].
Whatever the truth of Andrei`s (Andre`s?) claims that he has a close connections with the ruling Russian hierarchy, in the succeeding 15 months Rusoro sealed a potentially highly lucrative relationship with Venezuela`s government through a 50/50 joint venture called VenRus which has launched hostile bids for two north American mining companies, Crystallex Resources and Gold Reserve (GRZ) [Reuters, 2 February 2009].
In 2008, Rusoro had already agreed with Venezuela`s president, Hugo Chavez, to take over US mining company Hecla`s La Camorra and Isidora mines, and set up RusKaolin, to exploit an open-pit China clay deposit [OpEd.news.com 16 January 2009].
Answering criticisms that his enterprise is guilty of a "lack of personal information available on the www", in January 2009 Agapov claimed that this was because "it`s a very small company with basically zero public exposure", while the "the only press [it has had] has been since Rusoro's very public involvement in Venezuela last year" [OpEd.news.com ibid].
That "public involvement" has appeared to be under some pressure of late. In mid-August 2011, president Chavev announced his government would nationalise Venezuela's gold mining industry, citing the damages that private operators had allegedly caused.
But, although Rusoro is the country's only large scale gold miner, Agapov appeared "unfazed" by the announcement: he believed the intention was "to target only illegal miners", while his father, Rusoro Chairman Vladimir Agapov "is personal friends with Chavez and his company has always had a good relationship with the Chavez government" [Wall Street Journal, 17 August 2011; Reuters 19 August 2011].
Just a year later, and Agapov's faith in president Chavez has appeared distinctly misplaced. In July 2012, claiming that Venezuela's actions had caused Rusoro "significant loss to the company and its shareholders", Agapov filed for international arbitration against the government with the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).
Mining Journal noted that another company, Canada's Crystallex Resources, is also pursuing international CITIC Bank. As already noted (see above), this was one of two mines coveted by VenRus, Agapov's joint venture with the government, set up in early 2009.
According to the Mining Journal, both Rusoro and Crystallex "may face challeneges in getting [an arbitration] hearing, "given Venezuela's decision to 'irrevocably' withdraw from the ICSID settlement process earlier this year" [MJ 27 July 2012].