Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris is backing his country’s drive to develop a gold industry following drastic changes to mining regulations passed last year.
Altus Strategies’ subsidiary AKH Gold, majority owned by Sawiris, has inked four contracts to explore in nine blocks located in the country’s eastern desert.
The agreements, which will see AKH Gold invest around US$4.1 million in exploration, were among ten 10 new contracts for gold exploration signed on Feb. 17, worth more than US$11 million, Egypt Oil and Gas reported.
The businessman’s love for gold is not a secret. Last year, he increased his exposure to the metal as the traditional haven struggled amid the market turmoil triggered by the first wave of Covid-19.
“I believe that when there is crisis, when people are done covering their margin cost, it’s gonna go up,” Sawiris predicted in a Bloomberg TV interview in March last year. “I’m still a buyer and I’m still increasing my position, but I’m only buying mining shares [for now],” he said at the time.
It’s said the Egyptian government has approached Sawiris about a potential acquisition of a stake in Shalateen, the state-run mining company sitting on a newly discovery gold deposit with estimated resources of 1 million ounces. No official announcements have come out of this so far.
News of Sawiris’ commitment to gold exploration in his home country came at the same time the government extended by 60 days the deadline to participate in its latest international mining tender.
Investors now have until May 15 to bid on blocks that will be awarded to the winning companies by September 15 at the latest, according to the Egyptian Mineral Resources Authority (EMRA).
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 over the past year are Centamin (TSX: CEE; LSE: CEE), owner of the only commercial gold mine in the country, as well as Barrick Gold (TSX: ABX; NYSE: GOLD), B2Gold (TSX: BTO; NYSE-AM: BTG), Lotus Gold and Red Sea Resources.
The country, which links northeast Africa with the Middle East, has targeted US$1 billion in new investments in the mining and energy sectors by 2030.