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CARACAS, Oct 26 (Reuters) - Ecuador plans to open up new mining areas for foreign investment in the first quarter of 2016, primarily for exploration of gold and copper reserves, a government official said on Monday.
The Andean country has for years been seeking to develop its nascent mining industry but has struggled to attract foreign capital due to high taxes, which led Canada's Kinross Gold Corp to pull out of gold project Fruta del Norte in 2013.
"We have 25 mining areas to allocate," Strategic Sectors Minister Rafael Poveda told reporters. "We have built a map of strategic areas that could be assigned to foreign companies for exploration."
The projects are expected to require $30 million each in the initial exploration stage.
Poveda said changes to legislation had improved the country's competitiveness and left the tax burden at around 26 percent, on par with other countries in the region.
Experts say Ecuador's tax burden on mining has in the past topped 50 percent.
Ecuador sees mining investment of $588 million dollars next year and $1.5 billion in 2017, according to projections. The government hopes production will begin at the Fruta del Norte, Rio Blanco and Mirador projects between 2017 and 2018.
The state mining company will also seek strategic partners to develop smaller projects seen as having strong potential. (Reporting by Alexandra Valencia; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)