Muscat: Oman's mineral resources, such as marble, limestone and gypsum, saw a jump in production in 2011, compared to 2010. Engineer Saalim bin Omar Al Ebrahim, director-general of minerals at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, said, "The government is encouraging and facilitating the procedures necessary to extract minerals in order to supply existing industries and to make these minerals available to any new or future industries."
Marble production saw an upward trend in output from 695,077 metric tonnes in 2010 to 931,409 metric tonnes in 2011, while limestone output climbed to 4,995,262 metric tonnes in 2011 from 4,637,976 metric tonnes in 2010 and gypsum production jumped from 653,232 metric tonnes in 2010 to 1,254,051 metric tonnes in 2011.
Saalim said, "In order to leverage its natural resources for faster
economic development, the government is doing its best to organise this sector administratively, technically and legally. Moreover, the government is seeking to encourage the private sector to participate in exploration and mining operations by providing them with data which give valuable assistance to develop different types of minerals, such as chromite, copper, manganese and some new minerals."
Regarding ongoing surveys, he noted, "Geological surveys and mineral explorations are essential to discover and evaluate any new mineral and industrial rocks
reserves, and thus the government is continuing to carry out all kinds of surveys and explorations."
When asked about tapping the potential rocks and minerals for value-added products such as glass, ceramics, chemicals, fertilisers, refractories, and others, Saalim said, "There is good potential. We are looking into it."
Referring to chrome deposits in Oman, he observed, "There are a number of chromite deposits. The government, through its mineral exploration programmes, is making new discoveries and chromite is one of them. There are some companies which are already in the process of building chromite plants, and the government will give priority to established plants to erect chromite lattices."
He added, "Mining laws also need to be reviewed. The government has already made headway by proposing some amendments to the Mining Law issued by Royal Decree No. 27/2003 and implementing the regulations, in cooperation with international consulting firms."
Saalim further said, "The government is seeking to encourage the private sector to establish more industries, depending on these types of minerals and to add value to all kinds of minerals. A vibrant mining sector has all the potential to make significant contributions to the development and diversification of the Omani economy."
Oman has large reserves of industrial rocks and minerals and its mining history can be traced to pre-Islamic days when copper was mined and exported throughout the world.
The country was then known as Majan, or the land of copper.