A keenly awaiting national strategy for the development of Oman’s hugely promising mining sector is currently being reviewed by the Public Authority for Mining (PAM), its Chief Executive Officer announced here yesterday. Hilal bin Mohammed al Busaidy (pictured) said the blueprint, which was completed and delivered by an international consortium of consultants recently, spells out a lucid roadmap for the effective development of the sector over the next 10 years.
“The consultants have done a fantastic job in terms of the quality of their work, as well as adhering to the six-months deadline for the delivery of the strategy. It’s under review at our end. Overall, our objectives of having an implementable strategy suited to Omani conditions have been covered in the document, based on a first glance of the strategy,” Al Busaidy said.
The task of drafting the Oman Mining Strategy was given to an international consortium of consultants led by SRK Consulting, a UK based mining industry specialist. Supporting SRK Consulting in the delivery of the strategy were global legal firm Mayer Brown and well-known consultancy giant Wood Mackenzie.
PAM officials said at the time of the award of the contract, last July, that the initiative would help to introduce a ‘world-class mindset’ into the sector’s development with the rollout of a strategy incorporating 12 key pillars, encompassing investment principles, geological factors, environmental safeguards, social engagement, skills development, and so on.
Yesterday, speaking to journalists soon after presiding over the signing of agreements between the Minerals Development Oman (MDO) and Mawarid Mining for the development of Blocks 1 and 2, Al Busaidy said the Mining Strategy will also be discussed at the upcoming ‘Labs’ of Tanfeedh — The National Programme for Enhancing Economic Diversification. The Labs, focusing on both the Mining and Energy sectors, are due to commence on March 18, 2018. “We will be discussing the outcome of the strategy in detail during the Labs,” said the CEO. “Our hope is to come up with concrete projects for implementation, as well as concrete measures for tackling impediments, while also getting the opinion of a wide spectrum of the stakeholders on the specifics of the strategy. Of course, prior to this, the Mining Strategy needs to be endorsed by the Council of Ministers. Implementation will start immediately thereafter.”
The strategy, Al Busaidy said, also looked at the time taken by the Authority towards processing applications for mineral licenses from prospective investors. “Surprisingly enough, applications remain with us for only a few weeks. But the problem arises when we reach out to the various ministries and government entities for no-objection certificates (NOCs) and permits required by law. Under the law, NOCs must be obtained from eight different government bodies before a licence can be issued.”
Commenting on the long-awaited Mining Law, the official said the draft statute has already secured the “blessing” of the Council of Ministers and is set to be presented to the State Council and the Majlis Ash’shura for their consideration.
The new Mining Law, the CEO said, streamlines procedures for local and international investment in the mining sector. It also offers greater “clarity and transparency” in the way how applications for licenses are processed, while also addressing hurdles that contribute to potential delays in obtaining the requisite NOCs from other regulators.
Overall, the mining sector has gone significant structural improvements that bode well for the continued growth of this key industry, Al Busaidy noted. “Looking back on the last two-and-half years, a lot has been achieved in terms of regulation of activities and the structured approach now in place in the handling of applications. We have just moved to our new building, an initiative that has been close to my heart. The new premises offer a better working environment for our staff and encourage them to be more productive and solutions-oriented. The Authority has also recruited a number of Omanis to meet our organisational requirements,” he added.