Brazil to auction 20,000 mining areas in first half 2019

Brazil plans to auction off roughly 20,000 areas for mining exploration in the first half of 2019, Victor Bicca, the head of the National Mining Agency (ANM), said on Thursday.

The exploration rights for the areas were taken back by the government after existing permitting processes there were stalled or abandoned and are equivalent to roughly 10 percent of the areas with mining permits pending.

Bicca spoke at the swearing-in ceremony for himself and other directors of ANM, a new mining regulator which was officially launched on Wednesday, replacing an existing underfunded government department. The creation of the agency, with more autonomy and resources, was part of a reform package that included a hike in mining royalties and changes to the country's mining code.

The agency is creating a system to carry out the auction electronically, Bicca said.

(Reporting by Jake Spring; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)