China's state-owned engineering company CMEC will modernise Tajikistan's flagship aluminium smelter in a $545 million deal, a representative for the smelter told AFP Friday.
A representative for Talco confirmed to AFP via telephone that "the contract between CMEC (China Machinery Engineering Corporation) and Talco was signed on April 15," though without details on how Talco would finance the deal.
Tajikistan's Talco aluminium smelter is a key industrial asset in an impoverished and mostly agrarian country of 9 million bordering China.
But annual production of the smelter fell 7.2 percent in 2018, and its Soviet-era equipment is in sore need of upgrading.
The poorest country to emerge from the wreckage of the Soviet Union in 1991, Tajikistan has looked to soft loans from China's state-owned Export-Import Bank of China to facilitate Beijing's investments in the economy. It now reportedly owes the bank more than $1.2 billion, equivalent to nearly a fifth of the national GDP.
Chinese companies have also acquired rights to a number of mineral concessions in Tajikistan in recent years, some of which were granted to pay for the investment loans.
Talco last year launched a mining venture with Chinese company Tibet Huayu Mining Co. Ltd expected to annually produce 1.5 tonnes of gold and 16,000 tonnes of antimony.