Photographer: DeAgostini/Getty Images

Egypt Digs Deep for Gold in Desert Where Pharaohs Only Scratched

  • Alexander Nubia’s project could cost up to $500 million
  • Gold mine to be Egypt’s second since Centamin started Sukari

Miners in Egypt are digging deep at what will be the country’s second gold mine, excavating in a desert where the pharaohs tried without much success to unearth the precious metal 5,000 years ago.

Alexander Nubia International Inc., a Vancouver-based miner, may open the as yet unnamed mine by 2019 at a cost of up to $500 million, Chief Executive Officer Mark Campbell said in an interview at the company’s Cairo offices. Centamin Plc operates Egypt’s only other active gold mine, Sukari, which opened in 2009 and produced 439,072 ounces by last year.

“We’re using modern technology to go where the ancients went before, and basically exploit what they couldn’t,” Campbell said. "The old-timers could go to about 30 meters (98 feet) and mined by hand. They didn’t have the technology to go deeper.” Alexander Nubia is drilling core samples at depths of up to 350 meters, more than twice the height of the Great Pyramid of Giza. 

Large Potential

Egypt had all but abandoned mining after its British rulers left in 1952. The pharaohs, the Romans and the British all dug in the mineral-rich Arabian-Nubian Shield area in the country’s Eastern Desert, but they lacked equipment that could go deep enough to extract much gold. Centamin introduced modern open-pit mining to Egypt that helped to identify deep-lying resources. 

While the country has significant natural gas deposits, its mining industry is much less developed. Mining and quarrying contribute only 0.4 percent of its gross domestic product and 1.5 percent of total exports, in spite of the large potential, Campbell said.

“Our main focus is gold, but we will of course look at all other precious and base metals that we may have in this deposit,” Campbell said. Geologists at Alexander Nubia are currently collecting samples to be sent for analysis in Romania. 

Alexander Nubia is exploring over 2,700 square kilometers (1,042 square miles) in Egypt’s Eastern Desert, about 800 kilometers southeast of Cairo, in an area known as the Arabian-Nubian Shield. The company expects to announce its initial estimate of resources from the area later this year and declare a discovery in one or two years, Campbell said. The company has identified at least six sites that were mined in ancient times and show potential for production.

The company’s shares have climbed 25 percent this year in trading on the Toronto TSX Venture Exchange, lagging behind Centamin’s 59 percent advance in London, as gold rallied.

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