Putin Declassifies Platinum Data

The president of Russia's press service reported yesterday that he had signed a decree declassifying information on reserves, production, sales, and consumption of platinum and natural diamonds. This was a real sensation for the Russian precious metals and stones market, because it meant final liberalization.

Up to now, information classified as state secrets included data on reserves of metals of the platinum group in the subsoil, in GMK Norilsk Nickel's stockpiles, and in all state structures (the State Treasury, the Central Bank, FGUP Almazyuvelirexport), as well as on total production volumes and export of platinoids. As for diamonds, at the end of last year, Russia declassified statistics on production, imports, and exports.

The president of Russia's press service reported yesterday that Vladimir Putin had signed the decree On Introducing Amendments to the List of Information Classified as State Secrets, Approved by Decree of the President of the Russian Federation No. 1203 of November 30, 1995. According to the report, the list of information comprising state secrets now includes only information on reserves of platinoids and diamonds in the State Fund and the Central Bank. "The remaining information on reserves, production, delivery, and consumption of platinum, metals of the platinum group, and natural diamonds are excluded from the indicated list," the document states.

The government initiated the removal of the secrecy regime from diamonds and platinoids when it sent the corresponding draft bill to the State Duma in the spring of 2003. However, this document applied only to diamonds. As the bureaucrats themselves admitted, at the time they had to resort to war ruses. Removing the stamp of secrecy from diamonds was actually a condition for Russia to assume the chairmanship of the Kimberley Process, in which the global community fights against illegal diamond sales.

It is not surprising that under these conditions, the decision to declassify diamonds was made separately from platinoids. Just before New Year's, the Ministry of Finance's website published diamond statistics for the first time since the discovery of large deposits of diamonds in the USSR in the 1950s. Now it is the turn of platinoids. "Yesterday's presidential decree is essentially the final step in the liberalization of the Russian precious metals and stones market, transforming it into a full-fledged market," they believe at the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade. The Ministry of Finance agrees.

"This decision has great significance for the development of the diamond market, especially for ALROSA," says Aleksandr Nichiporuk, the president of ALROSA. "The company now has the ability to provide partners with data on current production volumes and sales, which the market has been expecting for a long time. Even more significant is the provision for communicating data on raw diamond reserves in the subsoil, including by individual facility, to potential investors. We are expecting new decisions along this line in 2005, in particular, the abolition of export quotas and liberalization of state and customs control."

Another market participant directly affected by the declassification was short and to the point. "Of course, we welcome the fact that the decree was signed," Norilsk Nickel's press service declared yesterday. "This is certainly a positive step, especially for Nornikel. The most important news for the market will be its reserves, their quality, and how long they will last. If the reserves are really significant and they are enough for about 40 years, this will strengthen Nornikel's position and give investors additional confidence (as happened when nickel reserves were declassified). Plus, there is the opportunity for other participants to attract investors to the platinum sector. This may give impetus to this market, as happened when gold was declassified," believes Denis Nushtaev, an analyst at IFK Metropol.

The president of Russia's press service reported yesterday that he had signed a decree declassifying information on reserves, production, sales, and consumption of platinum and natural diamonds. This was a real sensation for the Russian precious metals and stones market, because it meant final liberalization.

Up to now, information classified as state secrets included data on reserves of metals of the platinum group in the subsoil, in GMK Norilsk Nickel's stockpiles, and in all state structures (the State Treasury, the Central Bank, FGUP Almazyuvelirexport), as well as on total production volumes and export of platinoids. As for diamonds, at the end of last year, Russia declassified statistics on production, imports, and exports.

The president of Russia's press service reported yesterday that Vladimir Putin had signed the decree On Introducing Amendments to the List of Information Classified as State Secrets, Approved by Decree of the President of the Russian Federation No. 1203 of November 30, 1995. According to the report, the list of information comprising state secrets now includes only information on reserves of platinoids and diamonds in the State Fund and the Central Bank. "The remaining information on reserves, production, delivery, and consumption of platinum, metals of the platinum group, and natural diamonds are excluded from the indicated list," the document states.

The government initiated the removal of the secrecy regime from diamonds and platinoids when it sent the corresponding draft bill to the State Duma in the spring of 2003. However, this document applied only to diamonds. As the bureaucrats themselves admitted, at the time they had to resort to war ruses. Removing the stamp of secrecy from diamonds was actually a condition for Russia to assume the chairmanship of the Kimberley Process, in which the global community fights against illegal diamond sales.

It is not surprising that under these conditions, the decision to declassify diamonds was made separately from platinoids. Just before New Year's, the Ministry of Finance's website published diamond statistics for the first time since the discovery of large deposits of diamonds in the USSR in the 1950s. Now it is the turn of platinoids. "Yesterday's presidential decree is essentially the final step in the liberalization of the Russian precious metals and stones market, transforming it into a full-fledged market," they believe at the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade. The Ministry of Finance agrees.

"This decision has great significance for the development of the diamond market, especially for ALROSA," says Aleksandr Nichiporuk, the president of ALROSA. "The company now has the ability to provide partners with data on current production volumes and sales, which the market has been expecting for a long time. Even more significant is the provision for communicating data on raw diamond reserves in the subsoil, including by individual facility, to potential investors. We are expecting new decisions along this line in 2005, in particular, the abolition of export quotas and liberalization of state and customs control."

Another market participant directly affected by the declassification was short and to the point. "Of course, we welcome the fact that the decree was signed," Norilsk Nickel's press service declared yesterday. "This is certainly a positive step, especially for Nornikel. The most important news for the market will be its reserves, their quality, and how long they will last. If the reserves are really significant and they are enough for about 40 years, this will strengthen Nornikel's position and give investors additional confidence (as happened when nickel reserves were declassified). Plus, there is the opportunity for other participants to attract invest

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