MUSCAT, JULY 18 – The Public Authority for Mining (PAM) says it continues to receive and evaluate applications for mining permits from investors, although approvals will typically be granted only where exploration and development activities produce real commercial value to the sector and support the wider growth of the economy.
The assertion was made by PAM Chief Executive Officer Hilal bin Mohammed al Busaidy on Monday, soon after the signing of a landmark agreement for the drafting of a National Mining Strategy for the sector.
“The process of evaluating applications and issuing mining permits has been ongoing at the Authority. However, in issuing permits we want to ensure that any mining activities resulting from these permits are in conformity with the broad objectives laid out by the Authority and the government for the sector’s development,” Al Busaidi said.
Greater emphasis, for example, is being given to mining applications that will provide raw materials for existing and new value-added industries planned in industrial hubs and Special Economic Zones around the country. Gypsum and limestone, for instance, are key ingredients in the production of cement and building products, and are thus likely to receive greater consideration, he explained.
As many as 234 permits for mineral exploration and development were issued as of end-2016, according to figures attributed to the Public Authority for Mining. The economic value of minerals — metallic and non-metallic — produced last year totalled RO 116.6 million, although the figure will be considerably higher if value-added processing and exports are taken into account.
Contributing to this figure are as many as 14 different mineral commodities, including marble, limestone, gypsum, industrial salt, chromite, laterite, clay, sand, quartz, copper, magnesium, kaolinite and silica.
Owing to depressed global commodity markets stemming from the wider economic downturn, a significant number of the minerals registered lower output in 2016 versus figures for 2015. Marble production fell 26.7 per cent to 1.2 million metric tonnes (MT) last year, down from 1.6 million MT in 2015. Limestone output slumped 18.8 per cent to 9.8 million MT in 2016 down from 12.1 million MT a year earlier. Gypsum dipped 9.4 per cent to 5.4 million MT from 6 million MT in 2015.
Mirroring the economic downturn, production of aggregates used in the construction sector plummeting 47 per cent to 37 million tonnes last year, down from 70 million tonnes in 2015. Production of copper fell to zero last year, from an output of 41,200 MT a year earlier. Chromite production remained relatively stable at 450,000 MT last year, while commodities like clay, magnesium, silica and kaolinite registered heartening output increases.
On Monday, PAM inked a deal with a consortium of leading international consultants to help in the drafting of a 10-year blueprint for developing the mining sector.
Headed by SRK Consulting, a UK based mining industry specialist, the grouping also includes global
legal firm Mayer Brown and well-known consultancy giant Wood Mackenzie.