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Omani-Australian JV wins key licence for copper-gold project


MUSCAT, FEB 17 - Adding to the flurry of copper-gold projects that have made headway in their development in recent weeks, Australian mineral exploration firm Alara Resources has announced that it has been granted a key licence for its Al Hadeetha Copper Gold Project, which brings it a step closer in its longstanding quest to commence commercial mining activities in Oman. In an update issued over the weekend, Alara said its local joint venture company, Al Hadeetha Resources LLC, was issued an ‘Economic Activities Licence’ authorizing the mining of non-ferrous metal ores, including copper.

It follows a meeting, held at the Tanfeedh Office earlier in the week, involving representatives from the Ministry of Commerce and Industry and Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs aimed at resolving licensing bottlenecks, among other issues. Alara and its local joint venture partner Al Hadeetha Resources are planning to construct a 1 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) copper concentration plant to process the massive quantities of copper deposits, with associated gold ore, uncovered at Washihi in North Al Sharqiyah Governorate.

Latest probable reserves at Washihi — the first of several mines being eyed for development in joint venture with its partners — are estimated at 9.7 million tonnes of copper deposits with a concentration of 0.88 per cent of copper and 0.22 gram/tonne of gold.

Commenting on the award of the Economic Activities Licence, Alara said it would work with the Public Authority for Mining (PAM) to secure the all-important licence to formally launch work on the Washihi project. It is also looking to finalise project financing terms on the back of this “important licensing milestone”, it noted.

In an earlier update, the Perth-based company said it was “optimistic” of advancing into the construction phase during the current quarter. To this end, it has progressed the preparation of, among other things, a detailed waste management plan and water management plan.

Furthermore, with copper prices back above $7000 per tonne, and supply deficits forecast to deepen further in 2018, Alara foresees an upward revision of the project financials.

“In addition to an expected 30,000tpa of copper throughput to be generated by a new copper tube manufacturing plant and existing demand for copper rod from Omani cable manufacturers, a copper wire manufacturing plant is also being built in Qatar. These developments provide further support for development of copper mining in Oman3, with Alara at the heart of it,” the company said.

New exploration licence applications are also being prepared to further bolster Alara’s portfolio for copper and other battery metals in Oman, it added.

In recent weeks, state-owned Oman Mining Company (OMCO) and the privately owned Mawarid Mining have signed deals to commercialise copper-gold deposits in their respective concessions, with investments estimated in the tens of millions of dollars. Both pacts underscore new momentum being seen in the sector in harnessing Oman’s prodigious mineral reserves for the nation’s economic development.

Conrad Prabhu

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