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Eritrea’s substantial mineral deposits are largely unexplored as a consequence of the war with Ethiopia. Mineral occurrences in Eritrea include copper, zinc and lead sulfides in the Asmara region; primary gold deposits in the Precambrian terranes west of Asmara; iron deposits east and south of Asmara; and a nickel-chromite deposit in the northwest near the Sudanese border. Sub Saharan Resources have begun initial investigations at their Asmara Project that has the potential to host base metal and gold mineralization. The area is known to be prospective for VMS mineralization with encouraging gold results being recorded from old workings at Medrizien and Woki Duba. According to the Eritrean government, artisanal mining in 1998 collected 573.4 kilograms of gold. Eritrea is estimated to have some 14,000 kilograms of total gold reserves.

Western observers also have noted Eritrea’s excellent potential for quarrying ornamental marble and granite. As of 2001, some 10 mining companies (including Canadian and South African firms) had obtained licenses to prospect for different minerals in Eritrea. The government of Eritrea reportedly is in the process of conducting a geological survey for use by potential investors in the mining sector. The presence of hundreds of thousands of land mines in Eritrea, particularly along the border with Ethiopia, presents a serious impediment to future development of the mining sector.

The Government continues to place its hope for additional revenue on the development of several international mining projects. Despite difficulties for international companies in working with the Eritrean Government, a Canadian mining company signed a contract with the government in 2007 and plans to begin mineral extraction in 2010.

The ongoing unrest between Ethiopia and Eritrea continues to be a deterrent to the development of the mineral industry in Eritrea. Most companies involved in Eritrea have been embarking on grassroots exploration programs, assessing stream sediment and geophysical results. No commercial mineral deposit has been located to date. However, artisanal gold production is said to produce approximately 550kg of gold per year.

Mining Activities

Australian junior Sub Saharan Resources acquired an 80% interest in three exploration licenses, Debarwa, Medrizien and Adi Nefas, covering approximately 1,200 km2 of highly prospective ground partially surrounding Asmara. In February 2003, the company signed a joint-venture agreement with Dragon Mining NL to potentially acquire up to 70% of the latter's interest in the Zara gold project in the north of Eritrea.

Rift Resources has been active in gold and base metal exploration in the country and properties include the Adi Nefas project (North of Asmara) which is estimated to have 1.2 Mt grading at 11.5% zinc, 1.1% copper, 4.4 g/ton gold and 165 g/t silver. Other properties include the Kefina, Nefasit – Mout Subab and Tekeze areas. Rift also has a 40% interest with Anglo American on the Augaro project.

Through local subsidiary, Eritrean Minerals Corporation (EMC), Canadian Adulis Minerals Corporation has completed gold exploration on four of its properties in Eritrea. Included was diamond drilling, reconnaissance sampling and grab sampling over the Harab Suit, Seroa and Seroa prospects.

Nevsun Resources Ltd is an emerging gold producer focusing on exploration in Africa. In Eritrea, it holds a 1,188 km2 land area covered by four exploration licenses, including the Augaro area. In January, 2003, Nevsun announced the results from the initial phase of drilling, totaling 804 m in six holes at its Bisha property, located 150 km west of the capital city, Asmara.

Sanu Resources Inc. from British Virginia Islands has the right to explore in four different parts of Eritrea. Sanu is focusing on its northern licenses of Dieba and Kerkebet.

Chalice Gold Mines has high hopes for its Koka deposit at the Zara project. The feasibility study on this 944,000 oz project is expected to be completed in 2010.

Mineral Law & Legislation

The Ministry of Energy and Mines was established in 1993, and is governs the Mining industry in Eritrea. It is the authority responsible for granting mining licenses to companies willing to exploit and conduct mining operations in the country.

Key Figures

  • Gold production: 30 kilograms (2006)
  • Gypsum production: 1 thousand metric ton (2004)
  • Hydraulic Cement production: 45 thousand metric ton (2005)

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