Interview: Farrokh J Masani

How do you assess opportunities for investment in the sultanate’s mining sector?

FARROKH J MASANI: Oman’s wealth of resources, many of which remain untapped, offer ample opportunities to generate revenue for the country. We see significant investment opportunities in mining, given the scale of mineral resources available in the country and the government’s restructuring of the sector.

The mining industry is expected to be a significant contributor to Oman’s economic growth in the coming years. Efforts are being made in this context to ease the process and procedures for concessions, as well as issuance of licences and permits.

The Ministry of Energy and Minerals has identified over 100 concession land areas with a total concession area of approximately 20,000 sq km. These allotments are rich in mineral ores and the government intends to offer them to investors via a competitive bidding process.

Investment opportunities in Oman’s mining sector are being created in a fair and transparent manner, generating confidence in growth prospects among local and international entities. Foreign companies are also encouraged to invest and partner with local firms, as such collaborations are essential for accessing advanced equipment and technology, and developing the necessary know-how at home. Moving forwards, it will be important to have better access to primary exploration data to help stakeholders make more informed decisions.

Which measures have been taken by the government to generate more domestic value addition?

MASANI: The steps that are being taken by the government are aimed at building confidence among domestic and international investors. This confidence needs to translate into local downstream development and encourage foreign investment. It is important that we work to ensure that Oman becomes an exporter of minerals and an important regional player in terms of value generation. By doing so, the industry will have a broader impact on the economy through job creation and the development of manufacturing capabilities.

What impact can international partnerships have on the domestic mining sector?

MASANI: Mining activities in Oman have historically been fragmented. The implementation of a new mining law demonstrates the country’s intent and aims to help facilitate cooperation between industry players in a fair and progressive manner.

A large part of the infrastructure required for the mining sector to develop is already in place both in the upstream and downstream segments. It will be important for local firms to seek partners capable of enhancing their development strategies and funding capital projects in order to accelerate growth in the sector. Mining projects, including those in the downstream segment, are usually capital intensive. The diversification of funding sources through partnerships can play an important role in helping unlock growth opportunities. Such strategic partnerships allow for the transfer of knowledge and equipment, ensuring that projects are carried out in line with the highest international standards.

In what ways can human capital be developed to meet future labour market needs?

MASANI: Oman’s young population offers employers a pool of talented individuals. Enhanced human capital development in the country’s mining sector is expected to result in a more experienced and skilled workforce that is prepared to support its advancement. More specifically, employees can advance their technical knowledge and skills by working and interacting with international industry experts, supported by relevant education and training programmes.