Four companies have been awarded gold mining exploration contracts for five concessions in Egypt’s eastern desert and Sinai region, according to a statement from Egypt’s Petroleum Minister, Tarek el-Molla.

The UK’s Veritas Mining Limited, Ghassan Spain Investment, and Egypt’s East Gas Company each won a concession, while Resolute Egypt won two, el-Molla revealed in a statement.

The tender, which was launched earlier this year by the Egyptian Mineral Resources Authority (EMRA), did not receive the level of interest that the government had hoped for. Foreign companies have critisised Egypt’s commercial mining terms. In January, MEED reported that the London-listed miner Centamin, which runs the Sukari mine in Egypt, would not be bidding for the new concessions due to the terms of the tender, which it deemed unfavourable for investors.

The company chairman Josef el-Raghy told MEED at the time: “the proposed 6 per cent royalty rate (including community development contribution) is one of the highest globally, and is double the rate for the Sukari mine [being run by Centamin]. Furthermore, the onerous production sharing terms, the partial cost recovery and the various bonuses due to the EMRA create a non-commercial operating environment for any mining investor. Combined, the proposed terms result in an effective tax rate that is by far one of the highest for mining globally.”

Egypt has been keen on developing its minerals and mining sector. In addition to the latest tender for gold exploration, in late 2016 Egypt’s Ministry of Trade and Industry submitted a 30-year masterplan for the Golden Triangle Project to the cabinet.

The masterplan was carried out by D’Appolonia, the Italian engineering services company, which is responsible for the project that requires approximately $2.3bn-worth of infrastructure works, according to government estimates.

The Golden Triangle project aims to take advantage of the country’s under-tapped mineral resources and develop the Upper Egypt area.

The Golden Triangle scheme is slated to include several interrelated projects including fertiliser factories, phosphate ore processing facilities and facilities to process shale and limestone as a precursor to cement.

The Golden Triangle project focuses on a triangular-shaped area of Egypt that covers 6,000 square kilometres between the towns of Edfu, south of Quena, to Marsa Alam, on the Red Sea coast, to Safaga, which is located to the north of Marsa Alam.