KABUL (Reuters) – Afghanistan’s Ministry of Mines issued a tender on Tuesday to explore and develop four mineral deposits potentially containing gold and copper, as it tries to attract investment to its potentially lucrative natural resources sector.
The largest concession, in the mountainous Badakhshan province in Afghanistan’s north, is made up of four areas of 250 square kilometres, which the government says contain gold. Two further deposits, in the country’s north and west, contain copper, and a fourth, in central Ghazni province, contains a mix of copper and gold, the mines ministry said in a statement.
The statement did not list a closing date for the tender. Little detailed exploration work has been conducted on the deposits since the 1960s and 1970s.
The Afghan government is relying heavily on the exploitation of its estimated $3 trillion in mineral reserves to support its economy, which has been severely damaged by decades of conflict.
However, analysts say investment interest in the country is likely to be constrained by ongoing violence, which the United Nations said earlier this year was at its worst since U.S.-led forces overthrew the Taliban regime a decade ago.
“(Afghanistan’s) rich mineral resources have the potential to transform the nation’s economy and provide early investors with substantial upside,” mines minister Wahidullah Shahrani said in the statement.
The government granted a consortium of Indian steel and mining firms led by Steel Authority of India rights to develop a huge iron ore concession at Hajigak, central Afghanistan, late last month.
SAIL chairman C.S Verma said the project would need a total investment of $11 billion.
(Reporting by Jan Harvey, editing by Miral Fahmy)