Seven international and four local companies out of the 17 that applied for licences have been awarded tenders to explore for gold in Egypt’s Eastern Desert, Tarek Al-Molla, the minister of petroleum, recently announced.
The tender was the first since the approval of amendments to the mineral resources law, which granted investors more facilities and privileges.
The international winners include the Barrick Gold, Lotus Gold Corporation, and B2Gold companies from Canada, in addition to British firms AKH Gold and SRK, and Australia’s Centamin, Al-Molla added.
The local companies awarded tenders are the Mining and Manufacturing Company, the North Africa Mining and Petroleum Company, Al-Abadi, and Ebdaa for Gold Mining, he stated.
The Ministry of Petroleum announced in March a tendering process to explore for gold in the Eastern Desert. It included 290 blocs spread over 250,000 square km. The 11 companies won the bid to explore 82 blocs, or 28 per cent of the total and equivalent to 14,000 square km.
The winning companies have been given permission to start mining immediately. They will each spend a minimum of $60 million in investments during the early stages of the mining process, Al-Molla said.
Osama Farouk, head of the Egyptian Mineral Resources Authority (EMRA), said the large number of bidders was the result of the companies’ confidence in the process, in addition to the transparency of Ministry of Petroleum procedures.
The majority of the international companies that submitted offers had never operated in Egypt before, he added.
The ministry had compiled data on the eight areas on offer for exploration priced between $3,000 and $5,000 depending on the amount of information provided, Farouk told the Weekly. Before the tender, 23 companies had bought the data, he added.
The winning companies were chosen based on a complete financial and technical evaluation. Their financial abilities and gold reserves were evaluated, with the reserves being an indication of an individual company’s success in previous explorations, Farouk explained.
Evaluation points were detailed on the EMRA website, he said, adding that each company had presented separate financial and technical letters.
Applicants had presented their financial and technical warranties, documents of earlier activities, commercial and legal registration files, the structure of their ownership and shareholders, and their nationalities.
The companies with the highest percentage points had won the tender. Forty per cent of the score was calculated according to experience, gold reserves, and production, while 60 per cent depended on the company’s financial systems and the royalties it would pay to the EMRA, the head of the authority said.
Egypt saw the largest tender for gold exploration in the world in 2020, Farouk stated, pointing out that the second phase of bidding will see more companies applying. However, the first phase was more challenging, as it showed the relevant procedures and privileges offered to the bidding companies.
The EMRA stipulated that foreign companies’ documents had to be notarised and certified by the relevant authorities in their countries of origin, as well as by the Egyptian authorities concerned and the Egyptian Foreign Ministry.
Egypt has awarded the companies exploring for gold and minerals two-year licences that can be renewed twice.
The Ministry of Petroleum has announced it will organise tenders every four months, with each closing after four months of opening the bids.
Mark Campbell, chairman and CEO of Aton Resources, a Canadian mining company, told the media that the success of the Egyptian tender has shown the growing opportunities of the mining sector in Egypt despite the repercussions of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Aton is anticipating another gold-mining bid in Egypt in the light of government efforts to upgrade infrastructure, amend conditions on mining companies, and participate in production, he said.
Egypt’s mineral resources law stipulates that licensees shall pay rent and royalties to the EMRA to exploit raw materials on an annual basis. The proceeds are sent to the treasury, and the law determines the rental value, which is paid in advance.
The EMRA board has the right to increase the rental value every three years, with the decisions being issued by the prime minister in consultation with the minister concerned.
Royalties should not be less than five per cent or more than 15 per cent of the value of the annual production of the licensee.
Six per cent of the royalties should be dedicated to the social development of the area surrounding the mining field. One per cent of the value of the total annual production should be allocated to the social development of the governorate where the mining field is located.
According to Al-Molla, a second round of bidding will be scheduled for March 2021 for the exploration of deposits of 10 minerals in 208 blocs spread over 38,000 square km in the Eastern Desert.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 26 November, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly