Ecuador intends to attract a foreign investment of around $750m in the mining sector in the first quarter of 2016 by opening up exploration in new areas that are rich in gold and copper.

Although oil is the most important aspect of the country’s economy, the Latin American nation has been experiencing the heat due to weak oil prices over a long period of time and hence has increasingly shifted its focus on mining sector.

To attract foreign investments, the country intends to provide mining incentives and tax benefits.

"We have built a map of strategic areas that could be assigned to foreign companies for exploration."

Ecuador’s Strategic Sectors Minister Rafael Poveda told El Universo: "We have 25 mining areas to allocate. We have built a map of strategic areas that could be assigned to foreign companies for exploration."

The last decade had seen only a few overseas mining companies venturing into the country and the investment has not been significant. After 2013, some existing foreign players such as Canada-based Kinross Gold have pulled out of their projects.

Ecuador President Rafael Correa has been pushing hard to make the Andean country more business-friendly, with new legislation introduced this year to help establish public-private partnerships in line with this goal.

The small nation has been boasting of offering better benefits than other Latin American nations, with the power cost about one third of that in Chile and Colombia and about 50% lower than in Peru.

The country estimates that once all the projects become operational in the next five years, the country’s mining exports will reach around $4bn annually and the government will be able to extract revenues of around $400m per annum from the mining sector, Poveda said at a press conference this week.

The state-owned mining firm Empresa Nacional Minera is developing eight projects to generate copper and gold. These projects are under exploration phase, and private investment required to go ahead with them, the minister was quoted as saying by Fox News Latino.