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Explorers, miners not bidding in Egyptian gold tender due to nonviable terms

The Egyptian Mineral Resources Authority on Jan. 15 kicked off its first gold exploration tender since 2009, with bidding scheduled to close April 20. However, interest is lacking for the auction, which comprises the rights to five gold concessions in the Sinai and Eastern Desert regions.

Centamin Plc is not participating due to unviable commercial terms, Josef El-Raghy, the company's chairman, told Bloomberg News in a Jan. 23 emailed statement. El-Raghy noted that the offered terms result in one of the highest effective tax rates in the world.

Centamin operates the Sukari gold mine Egypt, which is the only commercial gold operation in the country. The company is listed on the London and Toronto Stock Exchanges.

"With the exception of Sukari, Egypt's mineral wealth remains under-explored and undeveloped and this will continue to be an unfortunate lost opportunity for the people of Egypt until there is reform to the mining law," El-Raghy added.

Two Canadian firms also said they will not participate in the tender process and will instead focus on existing operations. Thani Stratex Resources Ltd. is exploring for gold in the country's Eastern Desert area, while Aton Resources Inc. holds two gold concessions in the Red Sea Governorate area.

Thani Stratex CEO David Hall said that he would be surprised if anyone participated in this round of the auction under the current terms, while Omar Taima, EMRA chairman, said certain unnamed companies have expressed interest in bidding.

According to a Reuters report, the auction terms call for production sharing with the government similar to oil and gas deals, a 6% royalty rate, partial cost recovery and several bonuses payable to the EMRA.