Gulf Mining Group, one of the largest mining and mineral processing corporations in the Sultanate, says it is pushing ahead with plans to triple the capacity of its ferrochrome smelting plant in Freezone Sohar with an investment of around $70 million.
It follows the successful resolution of the problem of slag — waste resulting from ferrochrome smelting — mountains of which had begun stockpiling on land earmarked for the expansion project, said Mohammed Yahya al Shabibi (pictured), Vice Chairman, Gulf Mining Group.
“Our plans for expanding the capacity of Gulf Mining Ferro Alloys are going to make headway, now that the accumulation of slag — which has been a longstanding environmental problem — has finally been resolved with the authorities. We are now in the process of removing the slag, which has taken up more than a third of our site.
This process will take about 3-4 months, upon the completion of which we will be commencing construction work on the expansion project.”
Speaking to the Observer, Al Shabibi said the expansion will be undertaken in two stages. “The first phase expansion will lift smelting capacity from the present 50,000 tonnes per annum (tpa) to 100,000 tpa, with this new capacity slated for commercial operation by late 2020 or early 2021. Immediately thereafter, we plan to embark on the second phase, which will boost the plant’s overall capacity to 150,000 tpa — a process that should be completed by 2022-23.” While the delays in resolving the slag issue did impact the company’s expansion plans, Gulf Mining Ferro Alloys made the most of this period to recover ferrochrome metal from the waste, according to the Vice Chairman. “We invested in a recovery plant and managed to salvage between 500-700 tonnes of ferrochrome per month, thereby adding value to our operations.”
Further, in a move to enhance the energy efficiency of plant operations, Gulf Mining Group has set up a briquetting plant in Samayil, the output of which will be used in the Suhar smelter. “When blended with the feedstock, these briquettes will reduce the smelting time, thereby contributing to significant energy savings.”
Recently, Oman was ranked the largest exporter of lumpy ferrochrome in the world — a title long held by South Africa, said Al Shabibi. “Exports of lumpy chrome from the Sultanate totalled around 460,000 tonnes in 2018, overtaking South Africa for the first time. Gulf Mining Group accounts for roughly 70-80 per cent of this volume — all of which was exported to Chinas last year.”