THE WILL TO DIG

Oman 2018 | INDUSTRY & MINING | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Hilal Mohammed Hamoud Al Busaidi, CEO of the Public Authority for Mining (PAM), on increasing metal exploration, sharing the risk with investors, and banking on the rare commodity of quality.

Hilal Mohammed Hamoud Al Busaidi
BIOGRAPHY
Hilal Mohammed Hamoud Al Busaidi has been the CEO of the Public Authority for Mining since 2015. Previously, he worked with Petroleum Development Oman (PDO). Throughout his 23-year career, he has held many different posts, with the latest as petroleum engineering manager. He started his career in 1991 after graduating as a petroleum engineer in the US.

What is the current state of the mining sector in Oman, and how do you see it moving forward in 2018?

PAM was established two years ago in a continuously growing mining sector, one of the sectors the government is relying on the most for economic diversification. We have a great structure in place to manage mining licenses and a new methodology to apply for licenses. We also want to increase the quality and competency of our staff to provide professional services to our customers. In terms of legislation, there has been significant progress, and we are almost in the final stages of the approval process. We are also conducting projects to identify mining blocks and obtain the no-objection permits from other ministries to offer them up for investment. Apart from all this, we are also investing in improving our technology.

Which segments of the mining sector are growing the most?

We foresee the greatest growth in industrial mining, especially in gypsum and limestone, because of their abundance. Since our country is mountainous and has high-quality building materials, resources such as concrete and sand are relevant to the Omani economy and have an outside market. We have not been doing enough in the exploration arena of metal minerals and will thus pay more attention to attracting investment for exploration and appraisal activities by providing incentives and sharing the risk with investors.
How does PAM assist Omani companies to become more competitive in the international market?
Each country has its own targeted markets. We are close to the Indian market, which is large enough to attract investors. Iran is our competitor in some resources, though ours are of a better quality. We have two factories that upgrade chromite, which enables us to sell this at a high standard on the international market. Quality is a rare commodity, and that is what we specialize in.

How will the upcoming mining legislation specifically change the way companies operate?

The contents of the new law are highly encouraging in terms of attracting investors in a transparent fashion. Once the law is approved, we would like to enact it within months. We are currently working on the final draft of the regulations, which is 80% completed. Issues such as taxation, for example, will be determined by the regulation and thus strengthen the market. The regulations will be specific in stipulating the entitlements and requirements for investors.

How will the Oman rail boost mining activities and improve exports?

Exporting hubs in Oman are well spaced; we have large ports that can support the export of minerals. Unfortunately, some of the minerals like gypsum and limestone are located in areas without the proper infrastructure to transport billions of tons 300km away from Duqm, the closest port. Oman is one of the top exporters of gypsum and would greatly benefit from a railway to increase exports and reduce transport costs.

What are PAM's main objectives for 2018?

First and foremost, we want to get the law into the execution phase. Secondly, we want to materialize business opportunities and get them ready in 2018. We also want to promote our investment opportunities through high-tech strategies and provide one of the best services to existing license holders. Finally, we want to improve the working environment for our staff. We are moving to a new building and opening branches in other provinces. We already opened one in Salalah and will open another three in Nizma, Ibra, and Sohar in 2018. We also want to complete and start executing our mining strategy.