Muscat: The Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MOCI) has decided to issue licence for only mining and mineral companies that export value added products.
The existing mining companies (like limestone) that are exporting raw minerals will be given a grace period to set up industries to add value, Eng. Ahmed bin Hassan Al Dheeb, Undersecretary at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry told Times of Oman, on the sidelines of an event to mark Industry Day here yesterday. The government wants the mineral products to be processed in the country to get value addition.
"As per the new regulation, we are trying to stop exporting minerals. The new regulation stipulates that the companies setting up mineral units in the country have to add value to the raw mineral available in the country. This has already been implemented," he elaborated, in response to a question from Times of Oman.
Eng. Al Dheeb said the ministry has been discussing with the existing units, which are now exporting minerals as raw materials, to introduce a grace period within which these companies can set up new facilities/units to add value to raw minerals. "Some companies have already started implementing new units."
In fact, the potential of mining is huge in Central Oman due to rich deposits of limestone, gypsum, and silica sand.
Limestone is abundant around Duqm port and an extensive geological mapping has identified two main areas with nearly timeless quantities of high quality limestone. The Al Safiya area is located 15 km west of the port and is primarily intended for the cement industry. In the Al Hydaybah area, 15 to 20 km south of the port, thick layers of white limestone are present with potential for lime production.
Gypsum is also present at many places in Oman, from north to south. The thickness of gypsum layers is limited, with a maximum of two meters. Larger deposits are located in Ghabah, 250 kms north of Duqm and in Shuwaymiyah area, 350 kms south-west of Duqm with interesting potential for industry and agriculture. The Port of Duqm offers facilities for the export of industrial minerals and for setting up of mineral related industry. A fully equipped 6,000 hectares industrial area is being developed, with its proposed road connection towards north and south Oman.
Industrial mineral resources are abundant and diversified in Oman, and some of them are located very close to the port such as white limestone or silica sands.
Foreign investment in JVs
Referring to a recent government decision to scrutinise joint venture companies to see whether they are fulfilling their promises on capital investment and provide employment opportunities for Omanis, Eng Al Dheeb said the study will be completed within the first half of this year. He said the joint venture proposals with foreign investment are now cleared after carefully scrutinising the projects. "The ministry is now revising the regulations to make changes in the way in which we are setting up joint venture companies and we hope that it is for the benefit of both the country and foreign investors."
However, he added that there will not be any change in the foreign investment regulation.
Talking about the one-stop-shop facility for clearing investment proposals, he said three services are now available for investors online. One more service will be added in March this year and the remaining services will be included by the end of this year.
Apart from top-level officials from the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, businessmen from all over the country attended the event to mark the Industry Day, which falls on February 9.