Afghanistan grants key copper and gold permits

The government of Afghanistan announced Friday its preferred bidders for three of its four current mineral tenders, with a consortium backed by City of London banker Ian Hannam, former BHP Billiton CEO Chip Goodyear and Poland’s multibillionaire Jan Kulczyk, emerging as the biggest winner.

FT is reporting (subs. required) that Afghan Gold and Minerals, Afghan Minerals Group, and Turkish-Afghan Mining Co. had been picked from a shortlist of 25 bidders to explore and start developing the Balkhab, Shaida and Badakhshan projects respectively.

Afghan Gold and Minerals will have copper explorations rights over the Balkhab, northwest of the capital Kabul (image). The company already has a gold property, which is close to start production, according to FT.

Afghan Minerals Group was granted Thursday a license to explore the Shaida copper deposit, in the province of Herat, in western Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, Turkish-Afghan Mining obtained the license for the Badakhshan gold and copper deposit, in the Badakhshan province, in north-eastern Afghanistan.

This is the second round of mineral licensing conducted by the Afghan government, which in 2008 gave Metallurgical Corp of China rights to the Aynak copper deposit and, in November last year, granted an Indian steel company the right to exploit the Hajigak iron ore deposit. 

The Hajigak iron ore deposit is considered one of the largest iron deposits in the world at 1.8 billion tonnes.

It is estimated that Afghanistan sits on over $1 trillion of untapped mineral wealth, but analysts warn that corruption, war and lack of basic infrastructure are likely to continue delaying the country's mining boom.

The country’s reserves of oil, gold, iron ore, copper, lithium, rare earths and other minerals are so vast that an internal Pentagon memo from 2010 —when most of the reserves were discovered— stated the country was posed to become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium,” a key element in the manufacture of high tech devices.

The government opened bids for another three huge mineral deposits, all of them mainly copper, last July and it should announce the preferred bidders before the end of the year.

China has also moved to acquire mining interests in Afghanistan with state-owned Metallurgical Corp’s successful $3.4 billion bid to build a copper mine – and a $6 billion railway to go with it — that should enter production in 2014.

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