Egypt's Eastern Desert is experiencing a modern gold rush since regulations became more lenient in 2019.
Egypt's Eastern Desert is, historically, a massive gold mine. Ever since the time of the Pharaohs, it has been the source of almost all of the gold that makes up the funerary masks and statues and jewellery that defined this ancient civilization. Thousands of years later, gold continues to glitter beneath the dunes, while laws shift and turn above it. In 2017, gold mining in Egypt had become an unthinkable prospect - requirements such as mandatory joint ventures with the Egyptian government that would give them 50% of the profits of gold exploration meant that any attempt at tapping into Egyptian gold would be unprofitable, scaring away any potential investors.
It wasn't until the law was amended in August 2019, cutting away much of the red tape around gold exploration, eliminating mandatory joint ventures and limiting state royalties to 20%, that companies started to flock back into the country in what's looking to be a modern day gold rush. Gold exploration in Egypt's Eastern Desert began to bloom, with news of this company or that company claiming exploration licenses for blocks to themselves. Most recently, Canadian firm Barrick Gold Corporation has signed four agreements on gold exploration with Egypt, investing millions in 19 sectors of the Eastern Desert. This was the result of a large international bid in late 2020, where 11 companies - including fellow Canadian company B2Gold and Lotus Gold, as well as Australia's Centamin - were awarded 82 exploration blocks.
Egypt has the potential to be one of the largest gold producers in Africa, and hopes to attract USD 1 billion in annual investments in mining. On average, it takes 10 to 15 years to go from discovery to production. Considering the progress made since 2017, the momentum towards a golden future almost seems inevitable - it's just a matter of time.