UPDATE 1-Ecuador sees $7 bln investment in five mines

* Kinross estimates 410,000 oz annual gold output
at mine

* Ecuacorriente says 25 bln lbs copper at Mirador project

(Recasts, adds details of the projects, minister comment)

By Santiago Silva

QUITO, March 29 (Reuters) – Ecuador expects companies
including Canada’s Kinross Gold to invest $7 billion in
gold and copper projects in the next seven years, as the OPEC
member tries to diversify its economy by encouraging mining.

Natural Resources Minister Wilson Pastor said on Tuesday
five projects will be signed in the next few months.

“The investment in the five projects will reach $7 billion
in an accumulated way. The cycle to put the mines at full
capacity will last approximately seven years,” Pastor told
reporters.

Ecuador, an OPEC oil-producing country, has a nascent mining
industry. Some larger projects were initially delayed as the
government of President Rafael Correa hammered out new
regulations for the sector.

Pastor said Kinross was in talks with the government, along
with Canadian junior Ecuacorriente and U.S.-based
International Resources . He said the three companies
will sign agreements by June, with two other deals completed
next year.

“We have left two contracts to be signed next year, because
their advanced stages of exploration are simply not finished.
That will conclude this year and in the first quarter of next
year we can hold talks,” Pastor said.

Kinross’s main interest in Ecuador is the Fruta del Norte
project, which has proven and probable mineral reserves
estimated at 6.8 million ounces of gold and 9.1 million ounces
of silver, the company’s website reports.

Kinross says Fruta del Norte is expected to produce an
average of 410,000 gold equivalent ounces annually over the life
of the mine. It plans to submit Environmental Impact Assessments
to build and operate the mine and processing facilities by
mid-2011 and is aiming to begin production in late 2014.

Ecuacorriente plans to start building a copper mine in
Ecuador with an initial investment of $631 million, a company
executive told Reuters in August.

Ecuacorriente is an affiliate of Canada’s Corriente
Resources , which in turn belongs to CRCC-Tongguan,
controlled by China’s Tongling Nonferrous Metals Group
and China Railway Construction .

Ecuacorriente said the Mirador project has estimated
reserves of 25 billion pounds of copper located in the South
American country’s southern province of Zamora Chinchipe.
(Writing by Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Ramthan Hussain)

UPDATE 1-Ecuador sees $7 bln investment in five mines