Muscat: A $60-million project to manufacture antimony metal and trioxide, a precious material used as a flame retardant in a wide range of industries, will be commissioned by 2016.
Sohar free zone on Tuesday signed a land lease agreement with a UK-led consortium for setting up the project within the free zone.
"A lot of engineering work has already been commenced. We expect the project to be completed in 2016," said Emin Eyi, managing director of Tri-Star Resources. However, the promoters are considering open a pilot facility much earlier for training professionals to work in the project. Construction work will start in 2015.
"We would like to open the pilot project early to train our staff, workers of contractors and vendors."
The new company called Strategic & Precious Metals Processing (SPMP) is being promoted by Tri-Star with a 40 per cent ownership, Oman Investment Fund with a 40 per cent stake and 20 per cent stake held by Castell Investments.
Eyi said antimony is a number one critical metal in the world and mining and mineral processing is the third leg of industrial development in the GCC region, after oil and petrochemicals.
The project will be capable of producing 20,000 tonnes of refined metal ingots. One of the materials they will produce is antimony trioxide, which is currently used as a flame retardant in a wide range of products, ranging from textiles and furniture to plastic covers designed to reduce the risks caused by car and aircraft engine fires.
Once operational, the plant will be one of the world's biggest manufacturing facilities of its kind outside China. "This is a unique project, one of its kind in the region," added Eyi.
He also said that the company has already started discussion with users of the material for developing such projects in Oman. 'We have also talked to people who make big batteries for high voltage storage."
Jobs for Omanis
Having taken up an initial offering of 22 hectares, partners under the new joint venture will have the option to develop a further 76 hectares. As such, while the 125 jobs are to be created for Omani employees, the actual impact could be much larger.
"Having a major antimony manufacturing facility at Sohar is significant for global, regional, and local economies. It is also good news for our business operations, and will put Sohar on the map when it comes to metal processing as it adds further value to our ever-growing metals cluster," said Eng Jamal Aziz, chief executive officer of Freezone Sohar. "The low environment impact of the plant has been well received by local ministries, meaning, we can offer benefits to our customers without negatively impacting our surroundings," he added.