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Oman’s Public Authority for Mining (PAM) plans to tender out 15 to 20 – mining blocks for exploration and commercial development during the course of 2020, a media report said.

An award for the first of these keenly anticipated blocks is likely by around the middle of this year, Dr Salim Ali Al Mahrouqi, director general of Mineral Investments Affairs, was quoted as saying in an Oman Observer report.

Public bids will open this week for a block in Muscat Governorate and another in North Al Sharqiyah Governorate, according to the report.

Successful bidders can expect exploration licenses for these blocks within 14 to 20 weeks of the receipt of competitive offers — in a far cry from the current norm of around two years, Al Mahrouqi.

Speaking at a press conference to announce the launch of the preapproved mining blocks programme, he said the new scheme has been fashioned to allow for the speedy award of mineral sites for exploration and commercial development. Mining sites identified by the Authority for private investment under the scheme are being prepped and rolled out “conveyor-belt style” to be marketed in a competitive tendering process.

Of the estimated 110 mineral sites proposed to be offered as preapproved blocks over the coming years, at least 15 – 20 will be tendered out this year, said Dr Al Mahrouqi.

Bidders making a stronger commitment to downstream processing and value addition in-country stand a better chance of winning the blocks for exploration and commercial development, he added.