The Canada Egypt Business Council (CEBC) and the Egyptian Council for Sustainable Development (ECSD) hosted a special event and panel discussion featuring H.E. General Adel Labib, the Minister of Local and Administrative Development and Dr. Muhammad Zaher, President of Z-GOLD Resources and Chairman of CEBC's and ECSD's Mining Committee. The event was held to discuss the status of the mining and quarrying sector and their future prospects a sector that could be among those to lead development in the country.
"Our country is rich in resources, needing but a clear vision and an ambitious strategy to make use of it", Eng. Raslan said as he made the opening remarks. Raslan added that the challenges Egypt is facing economically, could serve as an incentive to push the country's economy towards exploring new opportunities. The mining and quarrying sector holds in its folds guaranteed success especially that research in the field indicates that there are extensive reserves nationwide.
Minister Labib assumed the floor following the Chairman, who introduced him to the audience as one among few public servants to serve in key positions underthree consecutive regimes. General Labib held the post of governor under ousted presidents' Mubarak and Morsy, in addition to his post as Minister of Local and Administrative Development in the current interim government and prior to assuming the post of governor, he was a police general. The Minister has shown special interest in the mineral industry, he embarked recently on reviewing the lease prices for quarries in the governorates.
The Minister commenced his word by assuring his audience of businessmen in the field that his Ministry insists on licensing the quarries through the local executive authorities, rather than being done centrally through the Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources. The Minister also added that the fees pertaining to using quarries would be unified and that laws pertaining to mining and quarrying are expected to be amended in the near future explaining that this facilitates the process for the beneficiaries of quarries. He said that this also conforms to decentralization of power, which the government is trying to implement.
Labib also argued that this would increase the funds available for governorates especially that recently those have decreased due to the annexation of a portion of their funds to the Ministry of Finance. General Labib said that some of the cement factories revenues would be assigned for the development of the governorate.
The Minister spoke of the hidden riches in Egypt’s mineral wealth. He said that Egypt has phosphate, marble, limestone, bentonite, black sand among other valuable minerals and resources. He also cited the "Gold Square", which is a space of land spreading across the governorates of Qena, Sohag and the Red Sea, rich in some of the purest phosphate, where the largest quarry lies between Qeft and Quseir in Upper Egypt. “There is hope that this phosphate is not exported in its raw form, and that industries are established in which this raw material is used”. He added “While Al Sokary's Mine is the most famous gold mine, there are several more that are not known and are yet to be benefited from”.
The Minister also tackled the issue of worker safety in quarries encouraging quarry owners to pay attention to the health hazards that meet workers, considering their limited income. He encouraged them to guarantee the workers’ health insurance, while the government will work on providing them with incentives to do so.
In Dr. Zaher’s few remarks, he concurred with the preceding speakers regarding the importance of the field. "Mining is treated around the world as though the Ministry of Development, gigantic opportunities wait to be exploited in Egypt”. He added that CEBC organized a visit for its members to the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) Convention in March 2014.
The floor was opened for questions and owners of quarries voiced their grievances to the Minister. A number of them brought up shortage of fuel necessary for the drillers they use. Others expressed their approval of the Ministry’s stance regarding the amendments to the law pertaining to quarries. Quarry owners also asked questions regarding the development of minerals’ exportation. The Minister addressed their grievances, and confirmed them that exportation will be encouraged and facilitated.
Dr. Tamer AboBakr, head of the Mining and Petroleum Chamber and the head of the Energy Committee in the Federation of Egyptian Industries, commented on the Ministry’s stance regarding the law pertaining to quarries. He said that while allowing the local executive authority to govern the process has its pluses, it wastes the state's revenues and discourages the development of quarries. Aboubakr also questioned the ability of local authorities to oversee the process and ensure theoptimum and scientific usage of quarries.
In the midst of the heated debate that took place during the event, one thing was evident, which is that there is plenty at stake, and plenty to be reaped, from this promising sector. State institutions, however, seemed to be working towards a common ground, where the optimal usage of this important resource would be achieved.