Zangezur Copper-Molybdenum Combine, the largest molybdenum deposit, is on the verge of a break not literally but politically. “The Zangezur corridor is already becoming a reality,” Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said at the sixth Caspian Summit.
Return to Zangezur
The President was referring to the crossing, which connects the territory of large Azerbaijan with its “small” part, the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, which is an exclave separated from the larger land by the territory of Armenia.
Separated for now. During the last years Ilham Aliyev has already repeatedly promised that the Azerbaijani people will return to Zangezur which was taken away from them over 100 years ago.
Aliyev was referring to the short period when after the collapse of the Russian empire Armenia and Azerbaijan fought just for this region. Then the Bolsheviks came and gave it to Soviet Armenia, and it became part of the republic with the name
In the 1940s, the development of copper-molybdenum deposit was launched there, resulted in the emergence of Zangezur Copper-Molybdenum Combine, producing molybdenum and copper concentrates. Characteristically, the name of the combine kept the Azerbaijani toponym, which is now constantly mocked at the inhabitants of the Turkic republic.
Everything for Front
The Zangezur Combine is one of the world's main producers of molybdenum, a metal used in the manufacture of the shells of supersonic aircraft and missiles.
In Soviet times, all of the plant's products were bought up by military-industrial complex enterprises for obvious reasons, but in the 1990s they began to be exported. The controlling stake in the combine was taken over by the German firm Cronimet Gruppe.
According to some sources, it happened in 1995, when Cronimet Gruppe became the owner of 51% of shares. According to other sources, the contract on sale of Zangezur copper and molybdenum combine's shares for $132 million was signed on December 14, 2004, after which 60% of the company's shares were transferred to German company Cronimet Mining.
Subsequently, another remarkable circumstance became known to the public. 12.5% of its shares turned out to be owned by Zangezur Mining, behind which there were people from the combine's administration. Apparently, they represented the interests of the Armenian authorities of that time.
It was these interests that were struck by Nikola Pashinyan's people, who came to power as a result of the 2018 street revolution. They carried out an active cleanup of the Zangezur Combine of political supporters of the Hayastan bloc of Robert Kocharian.
Shadow of Mikhail Zurabov
At the same time, there is a change of the main owner. Cronimet Mining Company parted with the Armenian business, and at the end of 2019 the combine no longer had a controlling shareholder.
The electronic business register of Armenia (e-register.am) listed Mher Poloskov (former director of the combine), Karen Hakobyan (former director of the AMP plant), Gurgen Hambaryan and Mikhail Zurabov as shareholders of Zangezur Mining as of June 21, 2021.
Apparently, Mikhail Zurabov is the same Zurabov, the former Minister of Health and Social Development of Russia and ambassador to Ukraine. It was he who became the “lucky” owner of the 12.5% stake in Zangezur Mining. This event took place on February 3, 2020.
The period of power vacuum did not last long. At the end of September 2021, it became known that 60% share of Zangezur Copper and Molybdenum Combine (ZCMC) was purchased by Industrial Company, the wholly owned subsidiary of GeoProMining Armenia which is managed by Roman Trotsenko, member of the board of directors of GeoProMining. He is considered to be the owner of 60% of Zangezur Copper and Molybdenum Combine.
Roman Trotsenko is not a regular billionaire. In addition to his interests in real estate, air and river transportation, Trotsenko manages to combine his chairmanship in the board of directors of AEON Corporation with his position as advisor to the president of Rosneft. In other words, he has direct access to the body of almighty Igor Sechin, which immediately brings the situation around Zangezur corridor to the geopolitical level.
Simultaneously with the purchase of ZCMC, Roman Trotsenko transferred a 25% stake in the Industrial Company to the Armenian government. The Armenian government's stake in the company amounted to 15%, which was immediately transferred to a special fund created by the Armenian authorities to manage state property revenues.
Mikhail Zurabov's reaction to the deal was almost immediate. The former minister demanded that it be cancelled. Zangezur Mining filed a suit at the court of general jurisdiction of Syunik Region against Zangezur Copper and Molybdenum Combine, Industrial Company registered in Russia and the Armenian Prime Minister's Office.
A serious judicial war with arrests of shares started which reached a political level. On October 4, immediately after the deal, Robert Kocharyan, the second president of Armenia and head of the Armenia alliance, called it the top-ranking corruption and Prime Minister Pashinyan a Kremlin stooge.
All these events took place against the background of the sharp intensification of Armenia and Azerbaijan to create the Zangezur corridor, which resulted in Nikola Pashinyan being directly called a national traitor.
However, in the autumn of 2021, as we can see, another player emerged in the war for molybdenum, the fate of which will depend on the welfare of not only conflicting Azerbaijan and Armenia, but also Turkey and Iran, which claim to be regional superpowers.