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Ethiopia Aiming to License 50 Mineral Projects Every Year

Ethiopia’s government is aiming to license 50 mineral-exploration projects every year and more than double exports from the industry to $1 billion in five years, said an official at the Mines Ministry.

Investment in the mining industry has surged from less than $100 million in 2003 to an accumulated $1.3 billion, said Gebre Egziabher Mekonen, head of the mineral operations department at the ministry.

“The sector has seen a dramatic change,” he said in an interview in the capital, Addis Ababa, yesterday. “Seven years ago, the West didn’t know about our mineral resources.”

The Horn of Africa nation, which has deposits of gold, silver, copper, platinum, potash and tantalum, exported $281 million of gold in the fiscal year to July 7, according to Gebre. Ethiopian-born Saudi billionaire Sheikh Mohammed al-Amoudi’s Midroc Gold Mine and Perth, Australia-based Nyota Minerals Ltd. both plan large-scale operations in the country, he said.

There are currently 80 international and local firms operating 160 projects, Gebre said.

The industry is “totally open” to foreign investors, Gebre said. “There is no restriction to any investment.”

Mining exports earn Ethiopia about $400 million annually, Gebre said, making it the second-largest foreign-exchange earner after agricultural produce. It is hoped this figure will rise to about $1 billion after five years, Gebre said.

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