MINE CRAFTER

Oman 2014 | INDUSTRY & MINING | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Abdullah Ahmad Sulaiman Al Hady, Chairman of the Gulf Mining Group of Companies, on the mining sector, the company's role as an exporter, and surviving the crisis period.

Abdullah Ahmad Sulaiman Al Hady
BIOGRAPHY
Abdullah Ahmad Sulaiman Al Hady has had a successful career spanning 29 years. He is professionally qualified and experienced in various activities and roles in the Army, Royal Office, and in his own business. He went to study Business Administration at Al Armukh University in Jordan in 1996, and he is able to speak Arabic, English, Hindi, and Urdu. He is currently the Chairman of Gulf Mining Group of Companies.

How did Gulf Mining Materials (GMM) start as a miner in Oman?

In 2005, we established GMM and opened our first chrome ore mine in Wadi Maharam. In order to overcome the difficulty posed by the lack of accurate geographical information in Oman, I formed a small team of engineers to seek out minerals in the mountains and visit new sites regularly. The paucity of reliable data was problematic for us at first. Oman's stock of chrome ore is estimated between 1% and 2% of the world's reserves, but these figures may be hugely inaccurate and underestimated. The mineral business has many uncertainties and inherent risks. I have always taken more than moderate risks, be it in mining in Oman or through joint ventures in Turkey, Albania, Egypt, or Sudan. By nature, I do not mind taking risks if my instincts tell me there could be the possibility of success.

How did GMM establish Oman as an international chrome ore exporter?

In 2006, when we started to export chrome ore, Oman exported less than 50,000 tons annually. By 2008, Oman was exporting almost 1 million tons. GMM established a market for low-grade Omani chrome ore, which was previously inconceivable. We were the first company in Oman to set up a large-scale chrome ore crushing and screening mechanism for different sizes of ore. GMM was also the first company to establish a chrome ore concentrate plant, which helps in the upgrading of low-grade ore that was otherwise unusable. We are also in the process of building a ferro-chrome plant in Oman and have increased the capacity of our chrome ore beneficiation plant, alongside investing in our chrome ore mines and proposed concentrate plants in Albania and South Africa. We have also made a foray into marble mining and processing as well as gypsum.

How is GMM placed in the global marketplace?

We do not feel significant competition in Oman, as we are already the market leaders and fix the market prices for Oman chrome ore. The major competition comes from South Africa and Turkey. However, through our consistent efforts, cost efficiency, and the development of the GMM brand name by our team under the leadership of our CEO Kanwal Gambhir, we have been able to establish our products successfully in China and India. This has resulted in continuous demand for our products, despite the recession and the competition. Being an expert chrome ore mining company, opportunities bound for operating mines in other countries—particularly Albania, South Africa, and Egypt. GMM has its own offices in China, Egypt, and South Africa. However, we feel it is crucially important to have a diverse business offering. Besides chrome ore, we mine marble, gypsum, limestone, and laterite in Oman, nickel in Albania, and granite in Egypt. We also trade in minerals from South Africa and Turkey for exports to China and India.

What are GMM's most important strengths?

Our reputation, strict quality controls, and reliable delivery commitments have been our three main strengths. These are very important in the mineral business, and we have been able to compete successfully. The result of this is that in the last six years, our product has never been rejected by any buyer due to quality problems. This is an extraordinary achievement, as the rejection of materials is very common in the mineral business. We have always been pro-active in terms of meeting customer expectations, be they quality, time schedule, or specific requirements, such as size. We employ a flexible and pro-active approach. When the market crashed and prices fell by more than 70% in September 2008, due to our foresight and pro-active approach to offer small discounts and other relevant spot decisions, we ensured that we received payment for all of our shipments. Some miners and suppliers went bust during that period, as buyers refused their shipments. Finally, due to our cost efficiencies, we have been able to weather the fall in chrome ore prices better than other producers. This advantageous situation means we are looking to expand internationally, while our foreign competitors are facing difficult conditions.