(Adds detail, Anglo American comment)
LUANDA, Sept 14 (Reuters) - Anglo American, one of the world’s largest commodities miners, has asked Angola for permission to explore for base metals, the country’s ministry for mines said on Friday.
Anglo, which operates diamond, copper, platinum mines around the world, submitted a letter of intent to invest in the southern African nation’s mining sector, the Angolan Ministry of Mineral Resources and Oil said.
The move makes Anglo American the first mining major to request exploration permits in Angola since President João Lourenço vowed to open up the sector and encourage foreign investment.
Anglo confirmed its interest in an email to Reuters, saying that it fits into its global exploration programme, including prospects in Brazil.
In the midst of healthy commodity prices, miners are cautiously increasing exploration, an activity dismissed for years by the majors as too risky and costly, as they struggle to find suitable assets.
Despite being a major producer of diamonds, mining in Angola is in its infancy, with few commercial operations for other commodities. The government says the country has potential in copper, iron ore and gold.
For base metals, the ministry said the most important geological structures were in the copper belt of Cuando Cubango and Uige – which border Zambia and DRC respectively – as well as Moxico, Cunene and Huíla. (Reporting by Stephen Eisenhammer; additional reporting Barbara Lewis in London; editing by Louise Heavens)