TBY talks to Ahmed Abdullah Al-Hadi, Vice Chairman & CEO of Gulf Mining Materials, on being at the forefront of a renewed push to grow the mining sector in Oman.

 Ahmed Abdullah Al-Hadi
Ahmed Abdullah Al-Hadi is the Vice Chairman and CEO of Gulf Mining Materials. He is a natural entrepreneur, winning the Ernst & Young Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year award in 2011. He has an MBA from Corllins University, but began his career in 1979 in the army. He became a colonel in 2004, becoming one of the youngest people to reach the rank in the country.

How would you assess your role in the Sultanate's plans to boost non-oil activities?

Mining has become of one the five pillars of the Omani economy with the ninth Five-Year Plan. The government is being supportive and the creation of the Public Authority for Mining (PAM) has shown its commitment to the mining sector. Oman is a rich and untapped country in minerals, so there is a lot of work to be done. In this sense, Gulf Mining is the leading private company in Oman's mining sector; in 2005 we were recognized by the Sultanate for our chrome activities. We started 10 years ago with the first 500-ton shipment, and now we are exporting 35,000 tons per month, which in 2017 is expected to increase to 40,000 tons. In 2015 we were ranked as the largest producer and exporter of chrome in the world. Despite our leadership in this segment, we decided to diversify to other commodities and move into production of magnesium, gypsum, diamond stones, and laterite. In addition, we opened a marble factory.

What projects are you developing in order to boost your mineral production?

The government of Oman aims to export value-added minerals rather than selling raw materials abroad. Therefore, we decided to support this plan and add value to our exports by developing new plants. We took a step further and started with two chrome ore plants in 2010, and the year after we added a new production line. In 2014, we opened a new plant that allows us to produce 6,000-10,000 tons of concentrated material. In 2015, we completed the construction of our own fulcrum plant at the Sohar Free Zone, which produces 50,000 tons per annum. We are currently considering an expansion of the plant, but we will have to wait for the construction of a new power station in the free zone to supply electricity to our plant. As the station is expected to be finished during 2017 or the beginning of 2018, we are postponing our expansion until the government fulfills its plans We also want to add another two lines of production of limestone and gypsum, which will expand our capacity to 150,000 tons per annum for the upcoming 40 years. Due to power shortages, we are waiting for the infrastructure to be ready to complete our pipeline for expansion, including a ferromagnesium production line. Finally, we have acquired a new quarry rich in metal ore and are talking with the mining authorities to get permission to start using it.

What initiatives are you implementing to market your materials internationally?

We have recently opened an office in Lausanne, which is managing all our exports to Europe, and it is performing well. We also have an office in China not only for our fulcrum production but it also looks at other opportunities in chrome and magnesium. In addition, we have an office in India and one in Dubai, which has been operating for more than five years and increased our popularity in the UAE market. Since we do not have a steel industry in Oman, all our materials are exported, including the majority of our marble production, with only 10% to supply the local market. Our exports are using about 5,000 containers per month. That is why we decided to have our own shipping company called Gulf Beach Shipping, which takes care of our cargo and land logistics. We have a logistics division, which has been created to look after the land transportation. We own 25% of the fleet and the rest is hired from 117 local companies, which is our contribution to SME development. Sohar Port has become our center of operations for our exports overseas, and we are exporting by road 15,000 tons per month to the UAE cement factories.

What is your potential of to become a mining hub in the Middle East?

In fact, we are already the mining leaders of the region and the only company that has the right to do evaluations. We have come to the level that Chinese companies cannot evaluate Omani chrome without our consultation. We are the controllers of the market; 70% of the chrome exported from Oman comes through Gulf Mining. As mining is a sensitive sector we are still facing bureaucracy problems for exports, but I hope the Tanfeedh program will ease some of these obstacles.