What legislative changes is the Public Authority for Mining planning in order for the mining sector to contribute substantially more to GDP?
First, we have to focus on putting the right legislation in place. After two years of hard work, we are finally reaching the endorsement stage of the new mining law. The law will help attract investment in different ways. One of those is reducing the risk that the short license periods create. At present, the licenses are one-year renewable contracts but after the new law, they will be renewable every five years for up to 25 years and for the concession agreements, the tenure is for 25 years and renewable. This change will build confidence for sustainability from the investors point of view. If the site is bigger than 5sqkm, it is eligible to become a concession, meaning a bigger area and a longer period of time. Moreover, we are offering more clarity to legislation; the law is comprehensive and well detailed. Not only will it make the government and investors aware of the entitlements on both sides, it will define clear solutions in case there are any issues between investors and the government. Again, this helps build trust in investors that the sector is being regulated in a structured manner. Equally important, there is space in the new law to reflect Oman's economic changes in terms of royalties. The law stipulates the minimum royalty, but the absolute value will be determined by regulations, which can be adjusted as needed. The law itself calls for a competitive bidding process for allocation of quarries. By doing so, there is a fair chance for all players to compete for mining investment in Oman.
How does the Public Authority for Mining stay in touch with all of the sector's stakeholders when formulating its strategy?
We outlined the Oman Mining Strategy in 1Q2018, which presents a clear path for where we need to focus our efforts in order to maximize the exploitation of the sector's potential. The strategy also outlines the commodities that our efforts need to focus on. It is crucially important that we balance commercialization with the impact on the environment. Compared to other sectors, mining changes the landscape, and mining activities in Oman tend to concentrate close to where people live, unlike oil activity, which often takes place in the desert. Therefore, we are focusing on changing people's perception through the idea that mining should be carried out in a responsible way and is beneficial for the country. Therefore, we had many engagements with the stakeholder when we formulated our strategy, and they have been on board at every stage.
What are the primary infrastructure investments needed for the mining industry?
We have a great infrastructure in place for mining in general. For instance, we have excellent roads and large seaports located in different areas. However, some commodities are available only in remote areas. For example, about 300km from Duqm we have a large area that holds huge volumes of gypsum and limestone but the area lacks infrastructure and transport links. To overcome those challenges, we are collaborating with the Ministry of Transport and Communication to determine the optimal feasible means of transportation. One of the options is a railroad, which would serve many objectives, one of which is connecting remote communities. It would also promote local industries in Duqm and add value to the region.
What role does the Public Authority for Mining have in investment attraction?
Our objective is always to regulate the sector. We are not an investment arm; we leave that to other sectors of the government. We act in a way to make mining an attractive investment. We are enhancing the quality of our services to be able to promote and manage the sector.