Madagascar to pass mining, petroleum bills in October: minister – by Lovasoa Rabary and Drazen Jorgic (Reuters Africa – July 10, 2015)

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ANTANANARIVO (Reuters) – Madagascar will pass long-delayed mining and petroleum bills in October when the national assembly returns from a recess, the country’s resources minister said, a step seen as vital to boost flagging exploration in the mineral-rich Indian Ocean island.

One of Africa’s poorest countries, Madagascar hopes to accelerate economic growth by developing natural resources, but has struggled to attract foreign investors in recent years due to political instability and falling commodity prices.

Madagascar’s parliament in May impeached the president, a move later overturned by the constitutional court, and nearly toppled the government in a censure vote earlier this month, ratcheting up tensions on the coup-prone nation.

Mining and Petroleum Minister Joeli Valerien Lalaharisaina told Reuters Madagascar plans to auction 96 offshore blocks in the Mozambique channel after the petroleum bill is passed.

“As soon as the petroleum bill is updated at the parliament, we will make an international bid round,” Lalaharisaina said.

The new mining bill has been delayed as the World Bank, mining companies and civil society needed to be consulted, Lalaharisaina said. “It’s in the final phase now,” he added.

The World Bank in Madagascar confirmed it was advising the government on the new mining bill.

London-listed Rio Tinto owns 80 percent of an ilmenite mine on the southern tip of the island, while Toronto-listed Sherritt International owns 40 percent of the $5.3 billion Ambatovy nickel mine.

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