The company is carrying out exploratory drilling in the Um Balad and El-Fawakheir blocks.

“Site samples taken at the early stages of exploration are making us very optimistic,” says Karim Matar, SMW Gold’s managing director in Egypt. “The areas are very promising.”

Pre-feasibility studies are expected to be started later in 2008. The concession areas include a combination of probable resources of already explored gold and mineral deposits, and unexplored deposits.

In 2006, SMW Gold won the exploration and exploitation licences for the Um Balad and El-Fawakheir blocks. They are developing the mines under a 50:50 product-sharing agreement with the Egyptian Mineral Resources Authority.

Bureaucratic delays have slowed the progress of the projects, but a new mining code and regulatory framework, which are due to be presented to parliament in April, are expected to make future developments easier.

“We are determined to speed up progress,” says Matar.