Egypt has awarded 82 exploration blocks to 11 companies in an international bid round for mineral exploration, Petroleum Minister Tarek El Molla said on Thursday. Among the companies awarded concessions were Australia's Centamin, Canadian companies B2Gold, Barrick Gold, Lotus Gold, Red Sea resources and Britain's AKH Gold.
Though Egypt has a history of gold-mining stretching back to the pharaohs, it has only one commercial gold mine, Centamin's Sukari, which contributes up to $900 million a year to its gross domestic product.
The winning companies were awared only 29% of the blocks on offer in the bid round.
Egypt is targeting $1 billion dollars in investment in the mining sector and has opened up a second bid round for gold and mineral exploration from Thursday to last 4 months, Molla said.
(Reporting by Ahmed Ismail; Writing by Nadine Awadalla Editing by Aidan Lewis, Robert Birsel) ((Nadine.Awadalla@thomsonreuters.com;))