Gulf Mining Group, one of the largest mining and mineral processing corporations in the Sultanate, is preparing to bring its manganese concentration plant — the first of its kind in Oman — into operation early next month. The move promises to boost Omani exports of manganese, an important metallic element with wide application in the production of steel, batteries, alloys, pigments, fertiliser, bricks, glass, textiles and plastics, among other products. It also potentially opens the way for Gulf Mining to realize its ambitions to invest in a manganese ferroalloy smelter in the future.
“We are set to launch the manganese upgradation plant in Samayil on March 1, 2018. The processing capacity is around 15,000 tonnes per month, with the manganese ore coming from our quarries in Ibra,” said Mohammed Yahya al Shabibi (pictured), Chief Executive Officer — Gulf Mining Group.
Speaking to the Observer, Al Shabibi said the multi-million dollar concentration plant will add value to Oman’s manganese ore deposits and further incentivize opportunities for mineral processing, smelting and ferroalloy production in the Sultanate.
Gulf Mining’s longer-term goal, as outlined by the official in an earlier interview, is to set up a manganese ferroalloy smelter adjacent to a ferrochrome smelter owned by subsidiary Gulf Mining Ferro Alloy (GMFA) at Sohar Freezone. Envisioned in phase 1 of the project is a 4,000-tonne per annum capacity smelter, although further capacity additions would ultimately depend on the size of manganese ore deposits located in the Group’s concessions.
Importantly, Gulf Mining is also pressing ahead with plans for the expansion of its ferrochrome plant at the free zone, said Al Shabibi. Ahead of the actual expansion, the company aims to upgrade its existing smelter to enable the recovery of residual ferrochrome from the large amounts of slag being generated by the plant.
The upgrade, the official said, will take the form of a recovery plant which will extract valuable ferrochrome from the slag, thereby generating further returns on Gulf Mining’s investment in the project.
Around 6,000-7,000 tonnes of slag are churned out every month as a result of the company’s ferrochrome smelting operations. Managing these burgeoning volumes accumulating on site has long been a challenge for the company, which now says it is weighing cost-competitive solutions to tackle this problem. “We are in advanced negotiations with the Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs (MECA) and other government authorities to devise a mutually agreeable solution for the handling and disposal of this waste. During our interactions with various international solutions providers at local and international forums, we came up with a number of options for the recycling and reutilisation of the slag. These options, which have since been shared with the authorities, look at the potential for using the waste in road construction and in the manufacture of kerb stone, interlocking tiles and other paving applications.”
Upon the completion of this upgrade, Gulf Mining plans to set in motion a two-phase capacity expansion strategy that will build on the smelter’s existing capacity of 50,000 tonnes of ferrochrome per annum.
“The initial phase will commence this year, with negotiations being finalized with the technology and equipment provider. This will lift the capacity to 100,000 tonnes per annum by the second half of 2019. Immediately thereafter, we will commence work on yet another expansion, which will augment capacity to 150,000 tonnes per annum. This phase is intended for completion by Q2 of 2020. The two additional expansions will add around 150-200 new jobs as well,” Al Shabibi added.