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Oman 2015 | INDUSTRY & MINING | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Ramachandran, CEO of Zawawi Minerals LLC, on the gypsum mining sector, gypsum in-country value (ICV) addition, products, and joint ventures.

Ramachandran
BIOGRAPHY
Ramachandran has experience in strategic business development, operations in the mining industry, marketing, shipping, project financing, structured trade financing, and more. He holds a degree in International Business Administration and has also completed several professional development programs, including Business Building, Corporate Finance & Strategy, and Leadership Management. Zawawi Minerals is a part of Qais Zawawi Group and is incorporated and managed by Ramachandran to develop mining projects and in-country value (ICV), as well as to increase investments in the Sultanate of Oman for local industrial minerals. He has also authored many articles on gypsum demand and the supply scenario in India.

How would you assess the potential of the mining sector in the Sultanate of Oman?

The Sultanate of Oman's major mineral resources include gypsum, limestone, dolomite, marble, chromite, silica, and copper. Several industries have grown up around them as part of the national development process that, in turn, have boosted the minerals sector's contribution to GDP, as well as providing jobs for Omanis. The mineral industry of Oman is expected to continue to grow significantly in the coming years as international investors can make use of the country's strategic geographic location as a distribution center to India, the GCC, and other Asian and African nations. In the coming years, Oman will become increasingly important in supplying various industrial minerals to India and other Asian countries like gypsum, limestone, and dolomite. The capacity to export industrial minerals is expected to increase through the Port of Salalah, Sohar Port, and Duqm Port. According to the latest reports on the Indian cement industry growth scenario, the existing gypsum supply will be unable to keep pace with demand. Thus, the potential supply of gypsum from the Sultanate of Oman becomes an interesting prospect, and Omani gypsum will be the preferred source of imports in most of the regions in India, even including the northern region. Even after considering the maximum quantity of gypsum supply from Oman to India, the gypsum demand-supply deficit will widen on an annual basis, which will be reflected in an upward trend in the price of Omani gypsum.

Are you facing any obstacles to commercial expansion?

Currently, the only issue is about the delay in availability of natural gas to add additional value to gypsum investment projects; however, I believe that within the next two years this should readily be available. I believe that natural gas shortage will no longer be a problem from 2016 onwards.

What industries do you supply?

Gypsum, as a raw material, is used for plaster, gypsum board, and cement, and, hence, the construction industry. Gypsum (around 5%) is normally added to the product as a retardant to prolong the setting time of cement. Gypsum is also used as a primary raw material for plaster of Paris and gypsum board. Natural gypsum will remain the primary source of this commodity for decades to come. There is presently no substitute for gypsum in the production of cement and gypsum board. Our high-quality “SEETROCK" brand gypsum board will be supplied to the growing construction industries in Oman, other GCC countries, and India. Gypsum board manufactured with world-class American technology will be marketed with made-in-Oman branding.

Can you elaborate on the importance of the joint venture with the USG Corporation and Boral Ltd?

In 2012, Zawawi Minerals LLC established two joint ventures with USG Corporation from the US for gypsum mining, gypsum board, and plaster of Paris manufactur- ing projects in the Salalah region. In February 2014, our joint venture partner USG Corporation incorporated a 50:50 joint venture with Boral Limited, Australia and Asia's leading gypsum board manufacturing company, to form a world-leading gypsum board and ceilings joint venture in Asia, Australasia, and the Middle East. The joint venture includes Boral's operations in Asia and Australia, and USG Corporation's wholly owned operations in Asia and New Zealand, as well as USG's joint ventures in China and the Middle East, including the Oman joint venture with Zawawi Minerals LLC. Zawawi Minerals now is part of a transcontinental partnership with USG Corporation and Boral Ltd for gypsum mining and gypsum board manufacturing in the Sultanate of Oman. The USG-Boral joint venture provides Zawawi Minerals with an ideal opportunity to further strengthen our foothold across the booming cement and construction markets of the GCC, Indian subcontinent, and other Asian countries. USG Corporation was incorporated on December 27, 1901 and listed in New York Stock exchange, USG is a multi-billion dollar mining, manufacturer, and distributor of high-performance building systems like gypsum board, joint compound, and a vast array of related products for the construction and remode- ling industries. USG's Industry Leading Brands are: SHEET- ROCK® Brand Gypsum board, DUROCK® Cement Board, and SECUROCKTM Glass-Mat Sheathing. Boral Ltd is an international building and construction materials group, with its headquarters in Sydney, Australia. Boral produces and distributes a broad range of construction materials, including cement, concrete roof tiles, and gypsum board, for example. Boral primarily serves customers in the building and construction industries with operations concentrated in three key geographical markets: Australia, the US, and Asia.