Ruchin Garg, CDE Global Regional Manager for MENA, explores the trends and opportunities for companies keen to make the most of the growing material mining industry in the region.
The upward moving trends of Gulf country economies have long been dictated by oil and gas exploration and, perhaps due to their consistent success in this sector, some countries have focused less on valorising the wealth of minerals available to them.
With the time now right for diversification in national industries, and a next generation of experts coming through the career pipeline hungry to make their mark, the full opportunities of mineral exploration could soon be realised.
Mining is primed to reduce the region’s dependency on oil and gas while creating jobs for fast growing populations.
It has been reported that the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA) hosts more that 30% of global mineral reserves and it is rich in phosphates, uranium, copper, gold, iron ore and manganese.
Despite Saudi Arabia actively mining gold, phosphate and silica sands, and Oman tracking deposits of copper, silica sand and gypsum, MENA is currently lacking the investment needed to push the industry forward to full capacity.
This hasn’t gone unnoticed and new regulatory regimes and incentives are being developed to generate greater financial backing. The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is working on a unified framework to improve custom policies and trade regulations to form a world class mining industry.
With this support in place, activity in the industry is gaining momentum. For instance, Saudi Arabia’s MA’ADEN, a diversified mining company, is heavily focused on mineral exploration and is investing large sums of money into developing its processing capabilities. Oman for its part has initiated the allocation of gypsum and other mining licenses, while the mining economy is beginning to open up for Iran as well.
Lessons can be learned from countries that have been mining these resources for many years and also from the companies that have been giving them the equipment to do so. For those Middle Eastern countries interested in increasing their production of specialist sands, such as silica sand for the glass industry, Tooperang Quarry in Adelaide, South Australia presents a model worth considering.
CDE Global has recently installed a turnkey sand washing plant at the site, which produces glass sands for use by Owens-Illinois at its glass bottle manufacturing site in Adelaide.
The plant includes a range of equipment from the CDE product portfolio including the M2500, the first all-in-one washing solution to be created, which comprises an EvoWash unit and rinsing screens onto one compact chassis, with a capacity of up to 250 tonnes per hour. Crucially, operators in MENA, where water-saving is top of the agenda, will be inspired by the Tooperang plant’s configuration which also features an AquaCycle thickener that recirculates up to 90% of the waste water from the sand and gravel washing plant immediately for reuse.
The Tooperang silica processing capabilities have similarities to those required by silica mined in Saudi Arabia. With large deposits being explored, a single, compact processing unit is able to treat different grades of sand to optimise production and return on investment.
As a more reliable regulatory framework comes into play and additional incentives are put in place for investors, the attractiveness of mining will grow and we anticipate that this will lead to an increase in the number of mining operators casting their sights on the opportunities in MENA.