The Government of Ethiopia is aiming to license 50 mineral exploration projects every year and to more than double exports from the industry to over $1 billion over the next five years.

Ethiopia, which has deposits of gold, silver, copper, platinum, potash and tantalum, exported $281 million of gold in the fiscal year to July 7th.

Gebre Egziabher Mekonnen, Head of the Mineral Operations Department at the Ministry of Mines, said that the industry is totally open to foreign investors. Ethiopian-born Saudi billionaire Sheikh Al-Amoudi’s Midroc Gold Mine and Australia-based Nyota Minerals Ltd. both plan large-scale operations in Ethiopia.

Currently, there are 80 international firms and Ethiopia earns about $400 million annually from mining, making it the second-largest foreign exchange earner after agricultural produce.