EGYPT- Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris has announced his interest in acquiring 51 percent of the Shalateen Mineral Resources Company (SMRC).

The SMRC was established in November 2012 with LE10 million (about US$643 million) in capital as part of governmental efforts to increase investments and open new companies to create job opportunities.

According to government data, the company is conducting exploitation of mineral ores in the eastern desert of Shalateen and the Red Sea areas, such as through the re-use of old gold mines.

Thirty-five percent of the SMRC is owned by the Egyptian General Mineral Resources Authority, 34 percent is owned by the Ministry of Defense’s National Service Projects Organization, 24 percent owned by the National Investment Bank and seven percent owned by the Egyptian Company for Mineral Resources.

Naguib Sawiris is an Egyptian businessman who made most of his fortune through communications as the founder of Orascom, which he stepped down from as chairman in 2017.

The billionaire tycoon also holds an interest in mining and construction, and is chairman of private gold mining group La Mancha.

La Mancha holds investments in Toronto-listed Endeavor Mining, Australia’s Evolution Mining and Ghana-focused Golden Star Resources.

Sawiris said that he intended to invest in gold and copper mining in Egypt and May 2018 the billionaire transferred half of his 5.7 billion net worth into gold, believing that gold prices will continue to rise.

Sawiris offer to buy SMRC comes at a time when Egypt is reviewing its mining policies so as to attract private investments into the sector.

Egypt for instance has issued new regulations that have appeared to eliminate the need for mining companies to form joint ventures with the government and to limit state royalties to a maximum 20%.