Key Oman copper-gold project reports progress despite Covid setbacks

Constraints posed by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic notwithstanding, an Omani-Australian company behind the development of a major copper-gold project says it is pressing ahead with the venture – a landmark initiative that heralds the revival of copper mining in the Sultanate.

Al Hadeetha Resources Company (AHRL) – a partnership of Alara Resources of Australia and a number of Omani investors – acknowledged some setbacks in its efforts to progress the implementation of the Al Hadeetha Copper Gold Project at Washihi-Majazza in North Al Sharqiya Governorate, but pledged to push ahead with its delivery.

The project, stemming from the award in June 2018 of Oman’s first copper mining license to an overseas-led developer, centres on the commercialisation of an estimated 16 million tons of copper ore – billed as the largest single copper resource in the Sultanate to date.  It includes plans for a 1 million tons per annum (mtpa) copper concentration plant with an initial 10-year mine life.

“Despite (pandemic-related lockdown) conditions, the Alara team remains safe and well and is continuing work with necessary precautions,” said the Australian investor in its latest update on the project. “Restrictions prevent new construction teams entering the Sultanate, however Alara’s drilling teams, already in country, have completed over 3200m of drilling and 19 new boreholes at the Al Hadeetha Project Site. This has provided fresh core samples that have now been shipped for testing. The results will be incorporated into the Project’s detailed engineering design.”

However, arrangements with its EPC contractor, Chinese state-owned enterprise China National Geological & Mining Corporation (CGM), have been “halted”, said the JV, citing impacts from the pandemic, “including airport closure, domestic travel restrictions, shipping and other related concerns”.

“The company has since investigated having the engineering outsourced, procurement owner-managed and the construction contractor managed by an AHRL team, together with Project

Management Consultant, Progesys,” it noted. “New engineering and mining service agreements have also been prepared for execution and are planned for announcement later this quarter.”

Despite these developments, attributable primarily to the pandemic, the overall outlook for the project continues to be robust, especially in light of the recent rally in copper and gold prices on international commodity markets.  Copper rose by nearly 50 per cent to $6,545 per ton in July, up from $4,617 per ton in March.

“These signs, along with gold at ~$1900/oz see project financials remaining strong and first production scheduled for Q1 2022,” the company said.  “Global demand for copper concentrates remains strong. Copper imports by China, the world’s largest importer, were up 22.5 per cent on last year at the end of April. Finding buyers for copper does not present a challenge for the company,” it further added.