TBY talks to HE Eng. Hilal Al Busaidi, CEO of the Public Authority for Mining (PAM), on the organization's role in Oman and the government's plans for the sector.

HE Eng. Hilal Al Busaidi
HE Eng. Hilal Al Busaidi is the CEO of the Public Authority for Mining, appointed to this role in April 2015 by a royal decree. Previously, he was working with Petroleum Development Oman as the Petroleum Engineering Manager. He started his career in 1991 after graduating in the US as a petroleum engineer.

How would you assess the development of the PAM since it was established and what have been the main milestones?

The establishment of PAM itself is an enforcement of the vision of the government to give the mining sector more focus and attention and to enable it to contribute to the economy of the country, which has been low so far. Although the establishment happened one year ago, the achievements of the authority since then have been very substantial for the mining sector and one of the biggest achievements since then has been drafting the new mining law, which is currently in the process of endorsement. The second aspect is that in order for the PAM to provide the right and efficient services to investors, it requires an organizational structure capable of providing such structure. Therefore, the Authority has finished the new organizational structure. Mining licenses need a bit of restructuring in terms of the processes and we have been dealing with the restructuring of these processes in accordance with the old law, but eventually it will take on its own kind of restructuring process as per the new mining law. At least for the mid-term, we will be able to provide better services for new licensing, and we will be very clear about what the requirements are for those licenses. Another quick win is to provide quick services for license renewal through more coordination between the concerned government entities.

How will PAM support local and foreign companies once they are on the ground?

One of the things that local and foreign investors always face is the slow process of applications for mining licenses. We need to be dynamic in terms of coordinating between the entities as we should not really leave it to just sending letters. We have to physically meet with the people to pass the right messages of the importance of such kinds of investment. Sometimes there are bigger benefits from the investment than the small adverse effect, which can be mitigated against by some kind of measures. A physical interaction, closer coordination, and making the concerned entity aware of the bigger benefits of this investment is my approach. The second thing is that we need to ensure that the investor is clear on the requirements before proceeding on commitments; because sometimes the investor is not clear on what is required. We are open toward foreign investors and we welcome their technical experience and skills. We are also willing to share with them the information about mining opportunities.

How transparent will the Omani mining industry be to future investors?

We would like to advocate transparency by creating a network through which you can find all mining blocks that are occupied and all the potential sites that are open for investment so you can immediately choose what you want. Also, the new mining law is clear and transparent. It clearly and in details specifies the rights and obligations for the license holder. Additionally the law provides the mechanisms of sorting out any conflicts that might arise during the mining operations. In addition there will be very clear and transparent criteria for selecting the winning investment proposal. All of these will provide transparency on our process and procedures, which will enable attraction for investment in the mining sector.

What are the goals you would like to achieve for 2016?

The short and medium-term milestones are to put the new mining law in operation, complete the mining strategy, restructuring of the process of issuing and renewal of mining license, and filling the organization with the right skills and talents which are required to transform the quality of the service we provide. Additionally, we want to start creating an attractive investment environment to enable attracting big foreign and local investments, which are required for the exploration of minerals.

Added value is another focus for 2016, and we are doing studies of different minerals to find out what is the best way to invest in these minerals. We also endeavor to establish a public mining development company, offering some share to the public and creating a genuine partnership between the government, the private sector, and citizens. In addition it will create healthy competition within the mining sector.