“Chinese companies have been very active in Algeria, and they have been bidding high for exploration acreages,” says a senior executive at one mining company operating in the country. “They certainly have the expertise to develop the small, high-grade mines being offered.”

In a bidding round concluded in June 2007, Chinese companies won all but one of the exploration acreages on offer, with Canada’s Cancor picking up the remaining permit. China’s Henan Zhongyuan Union Mining Company is also believed to be developing the recently reopened El-Abed lead and zinc mine on the Moroccan border.

Relations between Algiers and Bejing are warm. During a recent trip to Algeria in late March, a senior Chinese government official pledged to boost cooperation on mining with Algiers.

State-backed Chinese contractors are also heavily involved in Algeria’s construction industry, with China State Construction & Engineering Company carrying out the bulk of the government’s housing programme.

The deadline for the submission of bids for the first stage of the current bidding process for mining acreage is 6 May. Companies who submit successful technical bids will be invited to submit financial offers in the second stage.