Egypt has extended by 60 days the deadline to participate in the latest international tender for exploration licences as the North African country struggles with a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, with new daily cases on the rise, after experiencing a sharp decline in January.
Investors now have until May 15 to bid on blocks that will be awarded to the winning companies by Sept 15 at the latest.
The Egyptian mineral resources authority (EMRA) said the extension seeks to attract new companies and give potential investors more time to come forward.
Egypt hosted its first Mining Day at the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) convention last year, where it announced upcoming gold bid rounds.
The auctions have so far attracted mining heavyweights as well as juniors. Among the companies that have been awarded concessions in the past year are Centamin, owner of the only commercial gold mine in the country, as well as Barrick Gold, B2Gold, Lotus Gold, Red Sea Resources and AKH Gold.
The mineral resources authority inked in January five gold exploration contracts with companies that had been awarded blocks in the November bid round.
Egypt’s previous system of royalties and profit-sharing agreements made it difficult and unprofitable for miners to explore for and exploit minerals.
Fresh rules passed in January last year eliminated the need for miners to form joint ventures with the government and limited state royalties to a maximum of 20%.
Unlike Egypt’s natural gas sector, the country’s mineral wealth remains largely under-explored and undeveloped. Its only one commercial gold mine, Centamin’s Sukari, contributes up to $900 million a year to the nation’s gross domestic product.
Canada’s Aton Resources (TSX-V: AAN) launched last month an ambitious exploration drilling and development program focused on building Egypt’s second operating gold mine, after securing a licence in early 2020.
Egypt, which links northeast Africa with the Middle East, has targeted $1 billion in new investments in the mining and energy sectors by 2030.