MEDELLIN - Colombia will begin taking offers in its first bidding round for gold exploration contracts in early 2022, the head of the national mining agency said on Tuesday, as the Andean country continues efforts to diversify its mineral output.
Colombia has long hailed its as-yet largely untapped deposits of gold and copper, among other minerals, as the future of its mining industry, especially amid output and price troubles for coal.
"What we expect is to have the first mining round for gold at the start of next year," Juan Miguel Duran told Reuters on the sidelines of the Colombia Gold Symposium in Medellin.
The areas to be offered in the round are dotted around the country, Duran said, and will be subject to counter-offers.
The agency will discuss potential projects with local communities and governments, Duran said, with a view to smoothing the way for companies which win contracts.
It will also provide initial technical information and begin contact with environmental regulators.
"All this helps the investor to have much more information," he said. "It's the first time that we as an agency, as a mining authority, are proposing areas, we're not waiting to get proposals on specific areas."
Pre-qualification does not oblige companies to participate and allows them to bid in future rounds.
Duran would not give an estimate on how much potential investment the round may attract.
Large-scale mining projects in Colombia face significant regulatory and security hurdles.
AngloGold Ashanti said last month its Quebradona copper project will be delayed by the shelving of an environmental permissioning process.
Meanwhile, China's Zijin Mining has said production at its Buritica project - purchased in 2019 for $1-billion - is being seriously affected by the presence of illegal miners.
Colombia opened five copper areas for bids earlier this year. One, in La Guajira province, was awarded to Carbomas in September on a 30-year contract.