MUSCAT, JUNE 18 – Several key milestones in the implementation of a mineral railway network aimed at commercialising Oman’s prodigious mineral resources are due to be achieved during the course of this year. Chief among them is a goal to complete the development of a Public Private Partnership (PPP) framework that will underpin the financing, execution, operation and management of this ambitious national economic initiative. Oman Rail, a subsidiary of Asyad Group — the government’s transportation and logistics flagship — has been assigned the task of putting together a PPP formula for this project.
The proposed venture envisions the transportation of an estimated 30 million tonnes per annum of mineral commodities from massive limestone and gypsum reserves located in Wusta and Dhofar governorates to processing clusters in the SEZ at Duqm or for export via Duqm Port. Connectivity is planned from Duqm Port to Shuwaimiyah and Manji, and potentially Thamrait as well — locations in Dhofar Governorate that host prolific non-metallic mineral reserves.
Oman Rail also sees the potential to leverage the same railway network for the transportation of an estimated one million tonnes per annum of oilfield equipment from the port to oil and gas fields dotting the vast Wusta Governorate. The network will also supplant trucks in the delivery of some 3 million tonnes of industrial goods, as well as around 15 million tonnes of general merchandise, including foodstuff and agricultural produce, to consumers across the Al Wusta and Dhofar governorates.
“Rail connectivity to mining sites will not only fuel the commercialisation of the Sultanate of Oman’s high-volume mineral wealth but will also open the potential of this sector to investment, mineral processing and employment generation activities,” according to the Implementation Support & Follow-up Unit (ISFU), a high-level panel that has been mandated to monitor the timely implementation of a number of economic diversification initiatives.
“The objective of this project is to capitalise on the mineral resources available in Oman and establish a major pillar for national economic development through providing an effective transportation network of minerals from mining sites to ports. The railway line will also help reduce traffic on the road network, as well as develop, unify, and establish transport routes between Oman and its neighbouring GCC countries,” the Unit stated in a recent report.
Significantly, a rail-mining Task Force has been established to ensure that all of the key stakeholders work in sync to ensure the smooth and timely delivery of the Mineral Railway project. Represented on the Task Force are the Public Authority for Mining (PAM), Mineral Development Oman (MDO) — a partnership of four prominent state-owned investment firms, and Oman Rail.
But stakeholders in the wider initiative to deliver the Mineral Rail project also include the Ministry of Transport and Communications, Special Economic Zone Authority of Duqm (SEZAD), Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs, Ministry of Housing, Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Heritage and Culture, Ministry of Regional Municipalities and Water Resources, Royal Oman Police, Royal Army of Oman, and a host of public and private oil and gas, mining and logistics entities.
A number of key performance targets in the strategy to implement the mineral rail project are on track for completion, says ISFU. Notable is a comprehensive exploration study that PAM and MDO agreed to undertake to validate previous assessments of the reserves potential of limestone and gypsum commodities targeted by the mineral rail project. Also during the course of this year, MDO is expected to complete a market study and identify potential investors
Meanwhile, the design of the terminal and other facilities associated with the mineral rail project has been completed, according to the ISFU report. It follows the award of a Multi-Functional Consultant (MFC) call-off contract by Oman Rail. The national rail company is also expected to complete the PPP framework development before the end of 2018.