Omani firm to invest in calcium carbonate, potash projects

Growth ambitions: Well-diversified Omani mining corporation unveils major expansion strategy

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Conrad Prabhu –
MUSCAT, JAN 17 –
Gulf Mining Group, one of Oman’s largest mining corporations, has unveiled plans for a massive ramp-up of its investments and activities encompassing not only multi-commodity exploration and production, but also mineral smelting and downstream value-addition as well. The Muscat-based firm, which has around 1,150 employees on its rolls, aims to invest tens of millions of Omani rials in a substantive portfolio of mining-related ventures over the 2017-2018 timeframe, a top official said.
Mohammed al Shabibi (pictured), Group Vice Chairman, said the planned initiatives include investments in a new calcium carbonate project in Sohar, a ferro-manganese smelter in Freezone Sohar, a manganese beneficiation plant, a gypsum board manufacturing facility in Salalah, and a world-scale ‘sulphate of potash’ venture in Duqm.
An outline of the Group’s ambitious growth strategy was presented yesterday at the Oman Minerals & Mining Exhibition & Conference, currently under way at the Oman Convention & Exhibition Centre. The 3-day event has been jointly organised by Oman Expo and Awtad GeoQuest with the support of the Public Authority for Mining (PAM).
Notable among the Group’s planned investments is a new 120,000 metric tonnes per annum capacity calcium carbonate project, which is proposed to be set up at Sohar Industrial Estate. Limestone as feedstock for the plant will be sourced from one of Gulf Mining’s large portfolio of licensed mines. The facility, set for launch in 2018, is expected to create over 100 direct jobs.

Sulphate of Potash
Perhaps the most prestigious is the Group’s plans for a first-of-its-kind ‘Sulphate of Potash’ venture in the Sultanate. “Gulf Mining Group is in the process of developing a potash mine and building a plant in central Oman,” the Vice-Chairman said, noting that full production is slated by 2020 with a pilot facility set to come on stream next year. Raw potash production, initially targeted at 500,000 metric tonnes per annum, will be scaled up to 1 million metric tonnes over a five year period.
While potash mining is envisaged in central Oman, where abundant reserves of the mineral have been found, brine extraction and initial processing is planned at Umm As Samim. The downstream component of the venture, however, will be established in the Duqm Special Economic Zone where the potash will be blended with sulphur to produce Sulphate of Potash (SOP).
“These facilities could become one of the largest potash plants in the region with a minimum investment of approximately RO 115 million over the minimum estimated project lifespan of 20 years,” said Al Shabibi. “An estimated 500-plus direct jobs are anticipated, while on the downstream side, the employment generation potential is estimated at 1,000 — 2,000-plus jobs.”
Ferro-manganese Smelter
Sohar Freezone is also the choice of location for the establishment of a 50,000-tonne capacity ferro-manganese plant — the first of its kind in the Sultanate. Investment is estimated at RO 6 million at start-up, while the employment creation potential of the venture is envisaged in the order of 350-plus direct and indirect jobs. At the same time, Gulf Mining is preparing to commence work on the expansion of its existing ferrochrome smelter at Sohar Freezone. The 50,000-tonne capacity plant, which came into operation in January 2015, will undergo a three-fold expansion, according to the Vice-Chairman.“The plant is efficient, producing 50,000 tonnes per annum, utilising local chrome ore that adds value to our mining operations. Expansion will start in the second half of 2017 (subject to the availability of electricity), with the addition of two more furnaces to increase production to 150,000 tonnes per annum.”