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Afghanistan picks preferred bidders for mining projects

Keywords: Tags  Afghanistan, Balkhab, Shaida, Badakhshan, Chip Goodyear, Ian Hannam, Afghan Gold & Minerals, Afghan Minerals Group Turkish-Afghan Mining

NEW YORK — The government of Afghanistan has picked preferred bidders for three of its four current mineral tenders, including a company backed by former BHP Billiton Plc chief executive officer Chip Goodyear and a former JPMorgan Cazenove executive fined for alleged market abuse.

The country’s minister of mines said that Kabul-registered Afghan Gold & Minerals Co., Kabul-registered Turkish-Afghan Mining Co. and Dubai, United Arab Emirates-registered Afghan Minerals Group had been picked from a shortlist of 25 bidders to explore and begin to develop the Balkhab, Badakhshan and Shaida projects, respectively.

"We look forward to finalizing mining agreements with them," Wahidullah Shahrani said. "They will then deliver their work program at each project and use the experience they have gained in other regions to make meaningful contributions to the development of our resources sector."

Goodyear’s involvement comes through investment firm Centar Mining, a stakeholder in Afghan Gold & Minerals through Afghan Gold Holdings, Guernsey. Goodyear left his position at London-based BHP Billiton in 2007 and retired from the group in 2008.

Centar investors also include wealthy Polish businessman Jan Kulczyk and Ian Hannam, a former dealmaker at London-based JPMorgan Cazenove who was fined £450,000 ($721,500) by Britain’s Financial Services Authority in April for alleged market abuse.

Afghan Gold & Minerals also has a 49-percent stake in Turkish-Afghan Mining, with Turkish miner Eti Gümüs holding the remaining stake.

Afghan Minerals’ technical team includes Ken Haddow and David Cliff, both former executives at London-based Rio Tinto Plc.

The remaining mineral deposit waiting to be privatized is the Zarkashan copper-gold project in northern Afghanistan.

Afghanistan has some of the world’s few remaining undeveloped high-quality copper reserves, but security concerns have often kept companies from getting involved in projects there. But the Afghan government, which is responsible for providing security at mining operations, said these fears are overplayed in the media and that insurgent activities are restricted to limited pockets of the country.

The government’s mines protection unit has 1,500 personnel, a figure which will rise to 7,000 when the United States exits Afghanistan in 2014. The unit already keeps a watch on the Aynak copper mine and has not reported any incidents since the project was granted a license four years ago.

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