Gulf Mining’s new $19mn ferrochrome smelter inaugurated at Sohar Freezone

Sohar: An opening ceremony was held by Sohar Port and Freezone under the auspices of H E Dr Ali Al Sunaidy, Minister for Commerce and Industry, in which a new ferrochrome smelter was officially unveiled at the free zone. The smelter is the second of five planned for the zone, and production at the new 100,000 sq m, US$19mn site will be led by Gulf Mining Group, which signed a 25-year lease in 2012.

Investment in the smelter is part of a push to grow our metals cluster; to complement and support iron and aluminium industries at Sohar Port, according to Freezone CEO Jamal Aziz. “The metals cluster at Sohar is one of the fastest growing, with a high economic yield. Studies indicate iron industries and their derivatives have experienced exceptional growth as they continue to strive to meet demand,” he said.

“The Gulf Mining Ferrochrome Smelter is the second of five planned for Sohar Freezone, and will go a long way towards meeting that demand. Meanwhile, it will also become part of a free zone that has attracted 26 investment projects since its inception in 2010. With a total value estimated at US$620mn, the number of workers engaged in Sohar Freezone projects reached 2,400, with three times the number of indirect jobs created as a result of procurement contracts signed by local companies to provide services to multinationals,” he said.

More than 30 jobs have been created at the Gulf Mining plant which will produce ferrochrome primarily for use in producing stainless steel, of which 80 per cent of this compound is ferrochrome. Close to 90 indirect jobs will also be created as a result of production at the plant, and with global ferrochrome and stainless steel output set for growth.

Aziz thanked the Gulf Mining Group for its timely introduction of the facility into the market. “I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Gulf Mining Group for this important project, through which a significant value will be added to the natural resources of the sultanate. Instead of exporting chromite as a raw material to foreign markets, processing can take place locally. I also thank them for their commitment to the development of human resources in the industry, and wish them every success.”

Global production of stainless steel reached 4.8mn metric tonnes in 2014, with China and South Africa the major players in international markets, and since ferrochrome imparts the noncorrosive property to stainless steel there is a strong positive correlation in the outlook for both industries. With the outlook for markets in Europe in particular looking positive for 2015, the addition of a second ferrochrome plant at Sohar bodes well in terms of expanding production and firming up interests in EU markets and beyond.