As many as 110 ‘Mining Blocks’, bundled with preapproved permits and approvals, will be offered for investment in a competitive tender to be floated shortly, according to a senior official of Oman’s Public Authority for Mining (PAM).
Dr Salim bin Ali al Mahrouqi (pictured), Director General of Investment Affairs, said the mining blocks represent the first tranche of multiple waves of mining concessions due to be awarded for investment and development under the Authority’s new mining strategy for the Sultanate.
Speaking at the Oman Mining Expo, which opened at the Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre (OCEC) here yesterday, he said the first lot of preapproved mining blocks, covering a total acreage of 19,844 sq km and distributed across Oman, will be offered over the June-July timeframe of this year. Concession awards will follow shortly thereafter during August-September, he stated.
Contained in these 110 blocks, Dr Al Mahrouqi said, are as many as 13 different industrial minerals and ores awaiting development and commercialisation. Chromite leads the tally with as many as 30 blocks (with an aggregate acreage of 13,984 sq km) on offer for investment in the initial list. Other types of minerals targeted for development are Dolomite (20 blocks), Marble (13), Limestone (12), Silica (8), Laterite (8), Feldspar (5), Carbonatite (4), Gypsum (3), Kaolin (2), Attapulgite (2), Potter’s Clay (2), and Basalt (1).
The competitive and transparency system underpinning the tendering and award of PAM’s preapproved mining blocks is designed to help maximise value generation from Oman’s increasingly vital mining and mineral processing industry, said Dr Al Mahrouqi.
Furthermore, the initiative is designed to unlock a steady and sustainable supply of mining opportunities to investors. It comes with a simplified approval process and is tailored to pinpoint the most suitable investor for any given block. Besides, the process will ensure the proper monitoring of mining activities and the prudent containment of any environmental impact.
Significantly, the 110 mining blocks to be floated for investment in the first tranche are broadly classified into four categories, according to the official. The first category comprises blocks that will be offered under concession agreements duly ratified by Royal Decree. These are typically blocks in excess of five square kilometres in acreage or hold deposits of precious materials. Successful bidders will be entitled to receive concessions for between 20-30 years, and will have the right to explore and mine for any mineral specified in the exploration programme.
In the second category are blocks that may be of any size. The successful bidder can obtain multiple mining permits, subject to a maximum acreage of less than 5 sq km. Investors are entitled to explore and develop any mineral specified in the exploration programme.
The third category of blocks are those that are ready for investment and development with the exploration studies having been already completed. These sites, which are typically less than or equal to 5 sq km, may have already undergone a degree of mining previously. Investors have the right to mine specific minerals.
Falling in the fourth category are blocks available for reconnaissance and exploration only. As acreage that holds little or no geo data previously, these blocks are ideal for those who specialise in exploration activities. Investors are entitled to sell their data to recoup their investment.
Given the Omani government’s emphasis on downstream processing, bidders who commit to investing in value added manufacturing activities will have an advantage when competing for preapproved mining blocks, the official added.