Ethiopia earns $540.5 mln from gold in last decade
* Saudi-owned company’s mine dominates production
* Government aims to increase output
* Up to 1,000 kg of gold a year lost to smugglers
ADDIS ABABA, Oct 12 (Reuters) — Ethiopia earned $540.5 million from nearly 48 tonnes of gold exports in the last 10 years, the National Bank of Ethiopia said on Monday.
Some 47.9 tonnes, worth $520.5 million, was produced by the Lege Dembi mine, run by the private Midroc Gold Mine, the bank said. Lege Dembi is in the Adola gold belt 300 km southeast of the capital.
The balance of 693.3 kg worth $20 million was produced by artisanal miners, the bank said.
Midroc Gold Mine, which is owned by Saudi Arabian financier Sheik Mohammed Hussein Al Amoudi, paid $175 million in 1998 to win an international bid to run the mine for 20 years.
Midroc holds rights to produce gold in an area of 85 square km as part of a plan to boost Ethiopia’s gold output.
Officials say Ethiopia loses up to 1,000 kg of gold worth $10 million every year in contraband trade between artisanal miners in the south of the country and smugglers from neighbouring countries.
Ethiopia has identified “possible and probable” untapped gold reserve of up to 500 tonnes in different parts of the country, the ministry of mines said.
It issued a mining proclamation and regulations that gave foreign investors incentives such as duty free imports of equipment and repatriation of profits in 1993.
Since then 12 foreign companies have signed agreements to explore for gold, base metals, gemstones and petroleum across the country, the ministry said. (Reporting by Tsegaye Tadesse; editing by Anthony Barker).
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