Barrick Gold signs four exploration deals in Egypt

Barrick’s exploration program will cover 19 new blocks. (Egypt’s Eastern Desert stock image)

Barrick Gold (TSX: ABX) (NYSE: GOLD) has inked four gold exploration deals in Egypt’s Eastern Desert, the country’s ministry of petroleum and mineral resources said on Tuesday.

The miner, which won an international tender Egypt launched last year, will explore in 19 new blocks in the Eastern Desert with an estimated total investment of $8.8 million.

“We believe that it is essential to move into prospective emerging and underexplored mineral belts to maintain the discovery rate as part of a balanced development strategy,” Barrick SVP exploration, Joel Holliday, said in a separate statement.

Despite bountiful gold reserves and a rich mining history, Egypt’s mineral wealth remains largely under-explored and undeveloped

It will be the Canadian gold giant’s first venture in Egypt, which currently has just one commercial gold mine in operation — Centamin’s (LON:CEY) (TSX:CEE) Sukari.

Barrick has expanded its exploration portfolio this year with the addition of other prospective new property positions in Tanzania, Guyana, Japan and Nevada.

Despite bountiful reserves of the precious metal and a rich mining history that supported the making of elaborate Pharaonic jewellery, Egypt’s mineral wealth remains largely under-explored and undeveloped.

The lack of activity was due, in part, to the country’s past system of royalties and profit-sharing agreements. They made it difficult and unprofitable for miners to explore for and exploit minerals. 

A legislative overhaul in 2020 eliminated the need for miners to form joint ventures with the Egyptian government. It also limited state royalties to a maximum of 20%.­

The country also announced a series of upcoming gold bid rounds, which have so far attracted mining heavyweights as well as juniors.

Luring majors

Other than Barrick, companies that have won concessions over the past year include Centamin, B2Gold, Altus Strategies’ subsidiary AKH Gold, Lotus Gold and Red Sea Resources.

Canada’s Aton Resources (TSX-V: AAN) is one step ahead. After securing a license in early 2020, the company launched in January an ambitious exploration drilling and development program focused on building Egypt’s second operating gold mine.

Aton’s 600-sq.-km Abu Marawat concession, located 200km north of Centamin’s Sukari gold mine, has an inferred resource of 2.9 million tonnes grading 1.75 grams gold per tonne, 29.3 grams silver per tonne, 0.77% copper and 1.15% zinc.

Egypt, which links northeast Africa with the Middle East, has targeted $1 billion in new investments in the mining and energy sectors by 2030.