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    Russian mineral resources to remain open to foreigners - Putin

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    Foreign companies are currently allowed to hold no more than 49.5% in projects involving "strategic" deposits - primarily in the energy sphere, but also including metals such as gold and copper.

    ST. PETERSBURG, June 13 (RIA Novosti) - President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that Russia planned to impose restrictions on access to large deposits of mineral resources, but did not mean to deny foreign companies access to them.

    Meeting with foreign business leaders at an economic forum in St. Petersburg, Putin said: "We have been discussing ways to ensure Russia's national interests related to its largest deposits of mineral resources ... and here we plan special regulations."

    He said restrictions did not mean foreign companies would have no access to deposits that could be classified as "strategic," but that the state should have greater control over them.

    Foreign companies are currently allowed to hold no more than 49.5% in projects involving "strategic" deposits - primarily in the energy sphere, but also including metals such as gold and copper.

    The list of the deposits, which is yet to be completed, is part of a bill currently being considered on Russia's mineral reserves. The bill says the state has the sole right to sell or transfer subsoil exploration licenses and that exploration rights should be sold primarily through auctions.

    It also includes provisions establishing bond security and transferability of rights mechanisms, and limiting subsoil contract rights in favor of Russian companies.

    Russia's Natural Resources Minister Yury Trutnev said earlier Tuesday that the definition of volumes of strategic deposits should be adjusted downwards from the proposed levels, which stand at 75 billion cubic meters for natural gas, and 150 million metric tons (1.1 billion bbl) for oil.

    Trutnev said his ministry suggested making the starting point for strategic oil deposits 70 million tons (514.5 million bbl), while the figures for natural gas and gold should be 50 billion cubic meters and 50 tons, respectively.

    Putin also said Russia would seek long-term contracts in the sphere.

    "We will continue advancing cooperation in this sphere, and I want to emphasize that we will seek mutually beneficial long-term contracts."

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