The Iraqi government signed a strategic agreement with the Romanian government on Wednesday (December 7th) to establish a long term-partnership in the field of extracting and processing minerals in Iraq.
The processed minerals aim to meet the local needs of Iraq and Romania, with the remaining quantities to be exported to Europe.
The agreement calls for establishing the "United Iraqi Minerals Company", which will extricate, reprocess and export minerals. The company will start with 7 billion dinars ($6 million) in capital. Iraq will own 69 percent of the company and the Romanian government will own the rest.
"The work of the company will concentrate in six geographic locations in Iraq in the form of mineral processing plants, while the main headquarters will be in Baghdad," said Salam al-Quraishi, economic advisor for the Iraqi government.
Al-Quraishi told Mawtani that work on the project will start by mid February of 2012. It will take two years to construct the plants and start the process of mineral extraction.
Ahmad Delli al-Karbouli, the minister of industry and minerals, said the new partnership with Romania "is part of a new Iraqi state policy of opening up to Europe to benefit from its expertise on the basis of mutual exchange and benefit".
"Iraq was keen to put several conditions into the agreement with the Romanian government, the most important of which is that the Romanian side would be bound to provide the expertise and modern technology, as well as undertake the marketing side, in addition to having the construction done by the Romanian government itself or by companies guaranteed by it," al-Karbouli told Mawtani.
Among the other conditions of the agreement, according to al-Karbouli, is that 70 percent of the workforce at the factories will be experienced Iraqis who possess bachelor's degrees or higher, particularly for administrative jobs and those in the electronic and technological divisions.
Director-general of the State Company for Geological Surveys and Mining, Ali Abdulalh al-Ani, said at a press briefing on Wednesday that the agreement takes Iraq's economy in a new direction.
"The agreement represents a phase in which Iraq transforms from relying exclusively on oil to diversifying its sources of income to minerals, of which Iraq has plenty."
Al-Ani said the government is working on agreements with different countries to start projects aimed at activating agriculture, trade, industry and tourism, "which would create an economically strong Iraq within five years from now".
"The security situation in Iraq can be described as good and suitable for establishing the united Iraqi-Romanian company, and it is also suitable for the foreign companies to come to Iraq for investment," he said.
Ahmad al-Alwani, chairman of the Iraqi parliament's economic committee, told Mawtani that parliament approved the agreement "because it would create an economic leap in Iraq, allowing it to enter with strength into the market for the export of minerals to Europe".
"The agreement will also provide numerous work opportunities for Iraqi manpower, and the partnership with Europeans will open many doors before Iraqis to start other projects."