Muscat, APRIL 9 – Ramping up its footprint in the Sultanates increasingly important mining sector, Mineral Development Oman (MDO), the nations mining investment flagship, is eyeing a host of opportunities beyond its current focus on copper-related resources in the north and northwest of the country. MDO CEO Nasser bin Saif al Maqbali said the company is weighing investments in prospective mineral resources at key locations around the Sultanate. We have applied for a number of mining licenses, and we are getting them one by one right now, said Al Maqbali. We are in an advanced stage of negotiations with a local partner for the development of an industrial salt project close to Duqm.
Underscoring its role as a leading player in the mining industry, MDO recently acquired the Omani governments 15 per cent stake in Oman Chromite Company (OCC), a publicly traded firm listed on the Muscat Securities Market (MSM). Established by Royal Decree in 1991, OCC has been operating as a producer of metallurgical and refractory grade chromite ores. Last July, the governments stake in the company was transferred to the State General Reserve Fund (SGRF), a sovereign wealth fund of the Sultanate of Oman, which is also a shareholder in MDO.
Speaking to the Observer, Al Maqbali said MDOs first investment in a copper-gold development in Block 10 in Yanqul Wilayat in Dhahirah Governorate is progressing well. MDO has a 20 per cent stake in the Yanqul project company, along with Oman Mining Company (29 per cent) and international mining investment firm EXO (51 per cent). The results from Block 10 are starting to come out right now and they are very encouraging, said Al Maqbali. We are working very closely with our partner, Oman Mining, and also with the Public Authority for Mining (PAM) now to obtain the required mining licence, and hopefully the project will start soon.
Also making headway in their development are copper-rich Blocks 1&2 in North Al Batinah Governorate, according to the official. MDO (with a 40 per cent stake) and local Omani firm Mawarid Mining (60 per cent) are partners in the development of the two blocks.
Mawarid has already obtained a mining licence for Al Ghizain and we are very close to signing a shareholder agreement with them and to develop the project jointly. The shareholder agreement we signed with them for Block 1&2 is progressing to plan. We finished the first phase of the study, and its quite encouraging; we are now moving to the second phase of the study.
But concentrating minds at MDO is its mandate to develop the prolific mineral potential of a 3,400 sq km area in Al Shuwaymiyah Manji in Dhofar Governorate. An initial study of the areas mineral potential conducted by MDO last year has uncovered evidence of an abundance of limestone and gypsum, and potentially deposits of dolomite and attapulgite as well.
We are working with PAM in studying in greater detail the mineral potential of this area, said Al Maqbali. Together with Asyad, as our logistics partner, we are looking at the best logistics options as well. MDO will be looking at the potential to develop these resources in partnership with serious local or international players with the relevant expertise.
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