JEDDAH – National Mining Corp., a closely held company owned by Saudi industrialist Mohammed Al-Amoudi, said it found gold deposits in southern Ethiopia that may produce 10 metric tons a year, almost doubling national output.
Exploration conducted over 15 years shows the Okote site in Ethiopia’s Oromia region has more than 550 tons of gold, of which 73 tons may be ready for extraction within 24 months, the weekly US Major Market Indices newsletter reported, citing Chief Executive Officer Melaku Beza.
The company plans to invest $150 million in the initial phase of production, he said.
"This area has huge potential," he said. "The revenue will be about $4 billion in 20 years’ time" from the 73 tons and the government will receive $1 billion from tax and royalty payments over that period.
Ethiopia, the world’s 3rd biggest coffee grower, is diversifying its economy to reduce its reliance on agriculture, which accounts for 43 percent of the GDP, according to African Development Bank data.
Gold exports rose 75 percent to 11 tons in the fiscal year through July 2011, generating $485.3 million. Earnings totaled $258.8 million in the first half of the current fiscal year from $179.2 million a year earlier, according to Trade Ministry data.
Surveys conducted by South Africa’s Venmyn Rand Ltd. have shown deposits of 113 tons of gold in the southern part of Okote, which is about 600 kilometers (373 miles) south of Addis Ababa, Melaku said. The area may contain more than 425 tons, he added.
Ethiopia’s only commercial producer of the precious metal is Midroc Gold, another company owned by Al-Amoudi that was formed out of NMC to develop the Legedembi deposit. That mine, which is about 100 kilometers north of Okote, produces about 4 tons of gold a year, Melaku said.
“I think mining development in Ethiopia will be the future hope of the country for foreign-currency income,” Melaku said. Last year, coffee shipments earned the country about one-third of its total foreign-exchange revenue of $2.8 billion.
Gold exports surged 75 percent to 11 tons in the fiscal year through July 7, 2011. – SG/Agencies