Colombia's government has defined 313 strategic mineral areas totaling 2.9Mha and located in 15 departments, according to President Juan Manuel Santos.
Mining permits in the country presently cover 5Mha, so the new areas are equivalent to 60% of what is currently allocated for mining development, Santos said.
The mining areas will be awarded through objective selection processes to encourage healthy competition in the sector and allow for the development of projects of all sizes that comply with the standards of social and environmental responsibility, Santos said.
Mines and energy (Minminas) minister Mauricio Cárdenas said that this would eliminate the traditional first-come, first-served system for granting concessions.
"We're doing away with the Ingeominas [now the national geological service] system and replacing it with objective criteria that are backed by the national mines agency," Cárdenas said.
At the beginning of February, Minminas declared gold, platinum, copper, phosphate ores, potassium ores, magnesium ores, metallurgical and thermal coal, uranium, iron and coltan as minerals of strategic interest.
After the classification was made, the national geological service (SGC) drew up the borders of areas with strategic reserves and the Colombian government reserved these areas to begin awarding concessions.
"All the work we've been doing helps us send a powerful message for investor confidence," Santos said, adding that Colombia has plenty of space for large-scale miners that are willing to work in favor of the country's development.
Santos was speaking at the opening of the first large-scale mining conference that is being held in Cartagena from February 23-24.