(Corrects March 3 story to say Russia is one of the biggest gold producers, not the third biggest, removes line about commercial significance of LBMA membership and changes to say LBMA revoked membership of three Russian banks, not two)
By Peter Hobson
LONDON -The London Bullion Market Association (LBMA) told Reuters it has asked six Russian gold refiners it accredits if they have commercial links with sanctioned Russian entities and that such links, if found, could affect their accreditation.
Governments including those of the United States and the European Union have imposed sanctions on Russian individuals, companies, banks and the Russian central bank since the Kremlin sent troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24.
The loss of LBMA accreditation would make it difficult for the refiners to sell gold and silver in the London market, the world’s largest, as major international banks typically only deal with LBMA-approved refiners.
However, bankers and traders said the removal of Russian producers from the LBMA‘s ‘good delivery’ list would have little impact on the market and that Russian metal would still find buyers in places such as China and the Middle East.
The LBMA certifies around 70 refineries around the world to produce gold and around 80 to produce silver.
Russia is one of the world’s largest gold producers, mining around 330 tonnes each year worth around $20 billion at current prices, according to consultants Metals Focus. It produces around 1,350 tonnes of silver a year worth about $1 billion.
LBMA rules state that refineries it accredits “are to comply with all relevant economic/trade sanctions lists.”
The association is working with the refiners, as well as with lawyers and officials, to understand what relationships they have and aims to make a decision on their accreditation in the coming days, the LBMA‘s general counsel, Sakhila Mirza said.
“The good delivery rules are very clear,” she said. “We’ve asked for compliance with our rules.”
Refineries typically have relationships with banks that finance their activities. EU leaders have said their sanctions target 70% of the Russian banking market.
In Russia, commercial banks buy gold from miners and send it to refineries before exporting it. The Russian central bank is also at times a big buyer and this week said it would resume purchases of gold in the local market.
The LBMA is a trade association whose membership mostly comprises refiners, banks and traders. Last week, it revoked the membership of three Russian banks, VTB, Sovkombank and Otkritie, after they were added to sanctions lists.
The six Russian refineries on the LBMA‘s good delivery list for gold are JSC Krastsvetmet, JSC Novosibirsk Refinery, JSC Uralelectromed, Moscow Special Alloys Processing Plant, Prioksky Plant of Non-Ferrous Metals and Shyolkovsky Factory of Secondary Precious Metals.
All of these except Moscow Special Alloys Processing Plant are also accredited by the LBMA to produce silver.
Shyolkovsky declined to comment. The others did not respond to requests for comment.
When the LBMA removes a refiner’s accreditation, the metal that refiner produced when it was accredited remains acceptable in the London market.