21/02/2010 00:00 AST

Oman’s first chrome ore beneficiation plant will be opened at Wadi Mahram in Wilayat Samayil later this week.

The facility, part of Gulf Mining Materials Company’s growing investments in mining and mineral processing activities, will be formally inaugurated by Ahmed bin Hassan al Dheeb, Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, on February 23.

Established close to Gulf Mining’s chromite mine in Wadi Mahram, the plant will process ore sourced from its own quarry as well as other mines, said Kanwal Gambhir, General Manager. The facility, with an intake capacity of 15,000 tonnes per month, is currently under commissioning.

According to Gambhir, raw lumpy ore will be crushed and cleaned before being subject to various processes to yield a rich chrome concentrate. The final product will be shipped via Sohar, Muscat or Jebel Ali (UAE) to export markets in China and India, he said.

The launch of the chrome ore beneficiation plant signals Gulf Mining’s commitment to further diversifying its activities into mineral processing as well. The company began chromite ore mining operations in February 2006 targeting refractory grade chrome ore in Wadi Mahram. Chrome ore, which was hitherto shipped in its raw form, will now be exported as concentrate, thereby adding value to the company’s operations. Shipping and freight operations are overseen by the group’s in-house shipping department.

Gulf Mining, which aspires to emerge as one of Oman’s leading mining and mineral processing companies, also has interests in laterite and marble quarrying. The company operates a major laterite quarry at Barka, which generates around 30,000 tonnes of construction material per month. This commodity is chiefly exported to neighbouring United Arab Emirates. Furthermore, the company is preparing to commence marble quarrying activities.

Backed by an enterprising owner and professional management team, Gulf Mining hopes to make further inroads into the Sultanate’s promising minerals sector. Longer term, the company has set its sights on venturing into the mining of copper ore, iron ore, kaolin and limestone, among other minerals. Oman’s mining industry has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years following the promulgation of a revamped Mining Law in 2003 that incentivizes investment in mining and mineral processing activities. Also adding to the sector’s investment appeal are low energy and labour costs, favourable fiscal and tax regime, excellent road network and proximity to modern ports.

A host of new companies, including several backed by overseas players and investors, have commenced operations in the Sultanate, spurred by the phenomenal growth of global commodity markets. Investor interest is largely focused on Oman’s potentially prodigious copper ore, limestone, dolomite and chromite deposits.

Mineral production is poised to grow in trend with rising investments in mining, quarrying and mineral processing activities. According to figures issued by the Ministry of National Economy, output of chromite ore surged from 407,822 metric tonnes (MT) in 2007 to 784,082 MT in 2008. Laterite production rose marginally to 301,117 MT in 2008 from 295,012 MT a year earlier. Copper ore output remained roughly the same at 39,819 MT in 2008 versus 40,334 MT in 2007. Limestone output was also sustained at roughly 3.6 million MT over 2007 and 2008. But there were significant increases in the production of marble — 457,146 MT in 2008 (311,861 MT in 2007) and building materials — 51 million MT in 2008 (41 million MT in 2007).


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