Doing Business in the Middle East:
The Golden Sands of Egypt
A window of hope to future economic improvement – or simply a mirage?
Historically plentiful, a golden period
Egypt’s plentiful gold reserves were due to the high proliferation of gold production sites in Nubia – the region along the Nile river, located in southern Egypt and northern Sundan.
The methods of gold mining developed throughout the ages, from Pre-Dynastic (ca. 3000 BC) until the end of Arab gold production times (about 1350 AD), which includes the great Pharaonic periods, is a prime time where considerable quantities used to be excavated.
Research was conducted into the history of gold mining in the Nubian region by Dietrich and Rosemarie Klemm and Andreas Murr, of Ludwig Maximillians University, Munich, Germany, and published by the Journal of African Earth Sciences. This research mentions that the natural southern border of ancient Egypt was the region around Aswan with settlements on the Nile island of Elephantine. The desert region east of this location was more or less under Pharaonic control, at least during the Old Kingdom (2700–2160 BC) and Middle Kingdom (2119–1794 BC).
In the 1960s and 1970s expert teams of the Egyptian Geological Research Authority (EGSMA), the Geological Research Authority of the Sudan (GRAS) and the Soviet Techno Export group carried out extensive gold prospection research in Egypt and NE Sudan.
At the locations of all economically significant gold anomalies they discovered traces of extant mining such as stone mills, remains of settlements and mineshafts, indicating a long history of ancient extraction. Unfortunately these expert groups never co-operated with archaeological specialists in order to classify the many remaining ancient mining traces and tools and this interesting aspect of historical prospecting was thus left uninvestigated.
Estimation of the amount of gold produced in Pharaonic Egypt
Many gold fortune seekers tend to believe that the wealth of gold in Pharaonic Egypt is beyond imagination, as illustrated when in about 1340 BC a Mesopotamian Mitanni ruler asked Pharaoh Amenhotep III, in an urgent letter, for a larger gold consignment, arguing that ‘‘gold occurs in Egypt like sand on the roads’’.In fact, it didn’t.
The Klemm and Murr report also concluded that during the entire Egyptian history of roughly 6000 years of gold production, less than the monthly gold output of present day South Africa was achieved.
Gold in Modern Times
Few companies have contracts with the Egyptian government, but lately and after the recent constant political changes, the government is reviewing all contracts agreed under the Mubarak – and now also Morsi – regimes’ previously agreed contracts.
As reported by Al-Ahram, an Egyptian newspaper owned by the Government, the Alsukari Gold Mining project (exploited jointly by the Egyptian Ministry of Mineral Resources and Centamin of Australia) began in 2007, and produced its first gold by mid-2009. The company stopped production in 2012, however, because of disputes with the Egyptian government over diesel fuel supplies and its gold exports. In October of that same year, an Egyptian court ruled that Centamin’s rights to the mine were invalid and ordered all operations to stop.
In March 2013, the Egyptian Supreme Administrative Court suspended the verdict that cancelled the contract between the government and the Australian company, Centamin, whilst on the official website of Egyptian Mineral Resources Authority (EMRA), it stated that “Alsukari Mines is working at full strength”. ( www.emraonline.com)
More prospecting has occurred since Egypt’s 25 January revolution, with many people have taken the (illegal) opportunity to strike out on their own and search for gold in the desert.
In a more recent report published by Al-Akhbar, an Egyptian newspaper, in December 2013, journalist Hafez Hamdi quoted Dr. Hassan Bakhit, head of the Egyptian Geological Survey at the Mineral Resources Authority and Chairman of the Federation of Arab Geologists, as saying that the Mining Council was undertaking widespread research into all minerals across Egypt. They are undertaking such a widespread search due to the fact that most of Egypt is desert (95%) and therefore home to vast mineral deposits. He pointed out that the Egyptian Geologists have knowledge of the whereabouts of minerals such as granite, which is usually accompanied by gold, silver and copper.
He explained that there was a regional exploration in a large such as El halalib and Shalateen, after mapping and doing the necessary studies. Following this, a bidding procedure starts locally and internationally for tenders for the extraction of raw materials. In the case of raw materials on the surface, only local expertise is used. In the case of raw materials deep in the ground, a large number of foreign companies (who have both the required expertise and equipment) are involved.
Dr. Bakhit continued saying that the Egyptian Mining Council is now very interested in ‘black sand’, formed during the passage of the Nile River. As a result of this process, precious metals soaked into the water of the Nile and were deposited across the Delta Lands.