The Government of Afghanistan has invited bids from international mining firms to develop the Hajigak iron ore deposit, one of the richest mines in the world.

The mine is believed to hold up to two billion tons of high-grade iron ore.

Mines Minister Wahidullah Shahrani said the contract is expected to be awarded by the end of 2011.

Shahrani added that the mine will generate $300m in direct earnings for the Afghan Government and $1.5bn in indirect income for the country, reports AFP.

The Hajigak mine has a potential annual output of ten million tons over a potential uninterrupted lifespan of 180 years.

The Hajigak mine is located in harsh mountain terrain about 130km west of Kabul and is shared by the three provinces of Parwan, Bamian and Wardak.