Muscat: Minerals Development Oman (MDO), a leading player in Oman’s rapidly expanding mining and mineral processing sector, has reported significant headway in the delivery of a number of strategic mining initiatives which, upon implementation, promise to fuel the contribution of this key sector to the national GDP.

More than a dozen projects – spanning the upstream and downstream segments of the sector – are currently in various stages of development and operation at key locations around the Sultanate of Oman.

Mineral resources targeted by these initiatives include copper ore, chromite, magnesium ore, soft silica, gypsum, limestone and dolomite, among other metallic and industrial minerals, MDO – part of Oman Investment Authority (OIA) – stated in its newly published 2023 Annual Report.

Notable among the sizable portfolio of upstream mining initiatives being progressed by MDO are the following: Naqa Salt Project: Located at Mahout in Al Wusta Governorate, this project centres on the development of salt evaporation ponds that will yield an estimated 1.5 million tonnes per annum of raw salt from seawater. This raw salt will serve as feedstock for an array of local downstream factories specializing in the production of chemicals such as chlor-alkali, soda ash and other products. Naqa Salt also aims to produce bromine, a valuable mineral with extensive chemical and pharmaceutical applications.

“During the past year, MDO has successfully completed the pilot operation phase of the project and partnered with strategic partners to develop a bankable feasibility study (BFS) for the project,” said MDO in its report.

Mahout Silica Project: An extension exploration and drilling campaign targeting prospective silica resources also in Mahout uncovered evidence of over 30 million tonnes of high quality silica ore. Al Wusta Mining Company, set up by MDO to oversee the project’s delivery, has since conducted an economic feasibility strategy to produce the mineral and secure markets for the output.

Magnesium Metal Project: Exploration studies in the Wilayat of Qurayyat in Muscat Governorate have uncovered sizable reserves of high quality dolomite ore and silica ore – metals used in the manufacture of magnesium metal. A Final Feasibility Study of dolomite in the Dhabab area of the wilayat, as well as quartzite elsewhere in the wilayat, was launched last year.

“This project is a promising step towards utilizing primary resources to add local value, through the Magnesium Metal project, hence providing an opportunity to enhance value-added exports,” added MDO in its report.

Wafra Mining: Following confirmation of the presence of an estimated 15 million tonnes of high purity limestone reserves at Wadi Al Jizzi in Suhar, MDO is currently chalking out plans to develop these resources at the rate of around 1 million tonnes per annum. The limestone output is primarily earmarked for steel plants and other assorted customers operating in North Al Batinah Governorate. Sales of limestone production from the site have commenced since the middle of last year to a number of local and international buyers.

Chromite Ore: Following the discovery of around 100,000 tonnes of chromite ore at two sites in Fanja (Wilayat of Bidbid) and Al Raki (Wilayat of Yanqul), MDO has decided to proceed with their commercialization. Publicly traded Oman Chromite Company, owned 25.4% by MDO, has been tapped to mine the ore from the two sites.

Copper Ore Project: Among the notable highlights of 2023 was MDO’s success in progressing the redevelopment project of the Block 4 mines in the wilayats of Suhar and Liwa. The company explained: “Over the past year, the final investment decision has been approved and the project’s mining operator was appointed. Moreover, MDO has strategically allocated the operations of processing and concentrating copper ore produced from its northern concession areas to the copper concentration unit of Mawarid Mining Company, situated in Wadi Al Jizzi, Suhar.”

Ahjaar Mining: Targeting the production of gabbro – crushed rock for the construction sector – this project is located in the Wilayat of Liwa in North Al Batinah Governorate. Annual gabbro production is estimated at around 1.2 million tonnes, which is exported to markets in the wider region. However, seesawing demand in this region is posing significant challenges, according to MDO.

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