Billionaire Sawiris Joins Egypt’s Gold Rush After Rules Relaxed

One of Egypt’s richest men is joining the rush to explore the nation’s untapped gold deposits as a shakeup in regulations attracts investors.

AKH Gold, a subsidiary of Altus Strategies Plc, which is backed by billionaire Naguib Sawiris, on Wednesday signed four contracts to explore in nine blocks of Egypt’s gold-rich eastern desert. The deals, which will see AKH invest about $4.1 million, were among 10 contracts inked, the oil ministry said following a signing ceremony.

Billionaire Sawiris Joins Egypt’s Gold Rush After Rules Relaxed

Though Egypt has a long history of gold mining that goes back to the time of the pharaohs, it has only one commercial mine -- Centamin Plc’s Sukari -- and its mineral wealth remains largely under-explored and undeveloped. Mining companies have long complained that Egypt’s system of royalties and profit-sharing agreements made it difficult for them to explore and exploit minerals.

To stoke investor interest, the country last year introduced new regulations that limited levies and dropped the requirement that miners form joint ventures with the government. The new rules gave a “strong push and incentives” to international and local companies to join the bid round announced last year, the ministry cited Sawiris as saying after the signing ceremony.

Sawiris’s interest exploring for gold is a “good sign for other investors to join, especially with the great deal of experience his companies have in mining in many countries of the world,” the ministry said in a statement, citing Oil Minister Tarek El-Molla.

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