Indian consortium among firms shortlisted for Afghan copper, gold assets

A consortium of Indian firms is among 25 companies shortlisted to invest in new copper and gold deposits in Afghanistan.

The Economic Times reports four state-owned companies – SAIL, Nalco, Hindustan Copper and Mineral Exploration Corp –  joined two private companies, Monnet Ispat & Energy and Jindal Steel and Power, in making the cut.

Forty-one bidders have been shortlisted to 25; the other companies are from the US, Canada, UK, Australia, UAE, Turkey and Afghanistan.

According to the Economic Times, the six Indian companies could form a public-private partnership, similar to the joint bid awarded in November to a SAIL-led consortium to mine the massive Hajigak iron ore deposit- considered one of the largest iron deposits in the world at 1.8 billion tonnes.

The multi-billion-dollar contract would be spent on a steel plant, power plant and 200 kilometres of rail, road and power lines – an infrastructure buildout estimated to cost $10.8 billion.

The other companies were state-run Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Ltd., private-sector firms JSW Steel Ltd., Jindal Steel & Power Ltd., JSW Ispat Steel Ltd., Monnet Ispat & Energy Ltd., and Canada’s Kilo Goldmines.

Afghanistan has invited expressions of interest for gold and copper deposits in four provinces, which are expected by July of this year.

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

MINING.com linked to an article last year about a 2007 US Geological Service survey that pointed to $1 trillion in mineral deposits in Afghanistan, which could “fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself.”:

The previously unknown deposits — including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium — are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world. An internal Pentagon memo, for example, states that Afghanistan could become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium,” a key raw material in the manufacture of batteries for laptops and BlackBerrys.