According to a senior company executive, the proposed Ghuzayn Underground Copper Mining Project, located in Batinah North Governorate, could yield up to 10Mt of massive sulphide over a period of 12 years.

Vengesayi Nyamondo, Chief Mining Engineer at Mawarid Mining, said that the project presents an opportunity for Oman to establish a world-class resource extraction operation as a forerunner of future mineral resources exploitation in the country.

In addition, it will provide the opportunity to develop modern underground mining skills while contributing to the wealth generation of the stakeholders involved, taking care of the community as well, he noted.

The underground mining project, when eventually launched, will be the first by a privately owned Omani mining firm.

State-owned Oman Mining Company (OMC) holds the distinction of being the first miner in the Sultanate to foray below ground when it employed underground mining techniques to tap the potential of its copper deposits in the past.

Nyamondo said the Ghuzayn Underground Mine Development Project is still in the study stages. For the present, Mawarid Mining is focused on its open pit mining activities at its current Mandoos project, with underground mining an option for consideration in the future at this and other projects being pursued by the company, he said.

In any event, any decision by the company to kick off underground mining operations is at least two years away, Nyamondo added.

According to company officials, Mawarid Mining’s underground mining plan also exemplifies a ‘philosophy shift’ in its activities from the current focus on multiple short-lived mines to fewer mines that can be commercially exploited over several years.

At present, the company produces copper from the Mandoos mine, located about 45 km from Sohar. While Mandoos is essentially an open pit mining operation, Mawarid Mining has its sights on Guzayn-3 where a massive ore body has been discovered below ground. The ore body, estimated to hold millions of tonnes of Volcanogenic Massive Sulphide ore deposits (VMS), goes down some 300m.

As part of its groundbreaking underground mining initiative, Mawarid Mining plans to construct a network of shafts descending down to the ore body. Entry will be via a portal on the surface, while the ore will be mined through the Long Hole Open Stoping process. Mechanised loaders and trucks will be employed to cart the ore to the surface.

To ensure that the project meets with its international quality and safety standards, Mawarid Mining has engaged the services of international experts to undertake a number of feasibility studies.

Established in 1997 as National Mining Company, the firm was rebranded in early 2010 as Mawarid Mining LLC. It is a subsidiary of MB Holding and operates several copper mines and processes ore in its own facility.