Industrial Minerals magazine

MANAJIM 2015: ASCOM to exit industrial minerals in favour of precious metals

By James Sean Dickson     Published: Monday, 20 April 2015

ASCOM has announced that it will sell of its industrial minerals assets and focus on precious metal exploration instead, as it sees itself as a development, rather than mining, company. The firm will however continue to expand its calcium carbonate production capacity to 480,000 until the sale takes place.

Egyptbased ASEC Co. for Mining (ASCOM) is to sell off its industrial minerals assets and use the proceeds for precious metal exploration, Fayez Habib Gress, the company's managing director, told delegates at the Middle East Mining Conference 2015 (Manajim) conference today in London, UK.

ASCOM currently operates in aggregates, gypsum, silica sand, low alkali clays, high grade limestone and high purity and brightness calcium carbonate products, but is now seeking to "capture a number of rising opportunities in the region".

We are a development company this is where our expertise lies not so much as a mine operationscompany,"Gress told IM.

he company, which is owned by Citadel Capital Investment Co., has recently moved into precious metals exploration and owns several concessions for this purpose in Ethiopia and Sudan with an additional focus on Algerian exploration.

Calcium carbonate produced by the company via the ASCOM Carbonate and Chemicals Manufacturing subsidiary has the second highest grade in the world, AECOM said, behind only that produced in Italy. El Minia is the main calcium carbonate production base for AECOM, with a 180,000 capacity at startup. The opening of the plant increased the company's capacity from 45,000 tpa in 2009 to 222,000 tpa in 2013.

"Calcium carbonate and some other industrial minerals were all being supplied externally before we opened our facilities. Now the domestic market is filled by our production, we have an assert worth selling to fund further development opportunities in other nondomestically supplied minerals," Gress told IM.

At El Minia, an open cast mine supplies a milling plant 25km away; the greenfield plant opened in 2009 after $20m investment, and now has a 200,000 coarse to fine capacity. The primary markets for the company's production are paper, polymers and paints.

Grinding technology company Hosokawa Alpine has supplied the company with various processing technologies and, despite its plans to sell, ASCOM intends to continue expanding the company's production capacity to 480,000 tpa.

This will be partially organised via the operation of the company's second milling product line, which finished construction in Q1 2015, which will bring the company's capacity up to 240,000 tpa calcium carbonate.

 

MANAJIM 2015: Middle East moving to modern mining approach

By James Sean Dickson     Published: Monday, 20 April 2015

Delegates at the Middle East Mining Conference 2015 were told that the majority of countries in the Middle East were moving towards a modern mining approach defined by open and equal access by companies and capital from all jurisdictions. However, some regions remain stuck in other approaches pursuing existing project development rather than exploration or a narrow focus on oil.

There are three approaches to mining in the Middle East with the majority of countries rapidly converging on a "modern" approach, delegates at the Middle East Mining Conference 2015 (Manajim) in London, UK, heard today.

According to Al Gourley, cohead of mining practice at Fasken Martineau, this new approach is defined by open and equal access by companies and capital from all jurisdictions, security of tenement holdings, unfettered priority, no interference from government and external parties and fiscal freedom and stability.

Iran one of the leading gypsum producers in the region accounting for 10% of global output Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Kuwait were listed as countries pursuing this approach by Gourley.

Turkey was singled out as a particularly impressive example of a Middle Eastern country with a firmly modern mineral exploration approach. The country has an active refractories industry, led by Kumas.

In Saudi Arabia, the Saudi Arabian National Mining Co. (Ma'aden) has several active industrial minerals projects, including the Wa'ad AlShamal phosphate mine and its associated planned processing facilities on the eastern coast.

Iraq, Oman, Qatar and Syria, meanwhile, are jurisdictions defined by the "Kingdom" approach to mining. The "Kingdom" style of mineral development, Gourley said, is mineral and mine duration specific, with difficult terms and conditions negotiations, and a lack of sincere interest in exploration.

Oman is a fledgling industrial minerals producer and exported only 116,000 tonnes of limestone in 2012. But it wants to be a larger player in the industrial minerals market, and is also expanding its Salalah port in the south. As well as limestone, Oman also produces gypsum, kaolin, and clays including appapulgite which is used in similar markets to bentonite.

Though Qatar may have been defined by a kingdomstyle approach thus far, the country’s preparations to hold the FIFA World Cup in 2022 is likely to cause a spike in local demand for construction and pigment minerals as it builds the stadiums, hotels and associated infrastructure for the tournament.

The "Kingdom" approach, however, does support the development of existing projects, he said, noting the example of expansions in the operational capacity of Morocco stateowned miner, Office Cherifien des Phosphates (OCP).

The final mining approach outlined by Gourley was the "oil only" approach. While some countries, like Bahrain, are perhaps too small to take a different approach to mineral exploration, he said, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) could move away from this model towards the more internationally inclusive approaches.

 

MANAJIM 2015: Iraq eyes industrial mineral opportunities as it diversifies away from oil

By Liz Gyekyen     Published: Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Despite political instability in the region, Middle East countries like Iraq are trying to diversify their economies away from oil and gas and focus more on developing their industrial minerals sector. Iraq hosts a wide range of mineral deposits dispersed throughout the country and can provide opportunities for foreign investment, according to Government of Iraq’s former first deputy president of parliament, Dr Qusay Al Suhail.

Speaking at the Middle East Mining (Manajim) Conference 2015 in London, Al Suhail said Iraq had more than 900m tonnes of sulphur. It also has silica sand, phosphorous, bentonite, feldspar, kaolin, gypsum and flint clay.

Dr Saad Jasim, consultant to Heritage Oil and author of The Geology of Iraq, added that western Iraq had large deposits of lowgrade iron and bauxite as well as zircon and ilmenite concentrations in black sand.

He explained that the political situation in Kurdistan, an autonomous geocultural region spanning northern Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran, is favourable for exploration at the moment.

However, Al Suhail said that the central government controls investment in industrial minerals, which can stunt the sector’s development. He said: "The main problem of Iraq is that we have one law controlling investment, which was issued in 1988. This law shows that the investment of such materials is [handled] separately under the central government."

Nevertheless, he said that the Iraq Government was currently drafting a new mineral investment law. He said the main purpose of the law was to establish a "mineral council" similar to its "oil council", which will help with the planning of mineral resource investment, as well as "giving licences to companies who would like to come to Iraq".

With oil and gas prices becoming increasingly volatile, Middle East countries such as Saudi Arabia, Oman and Iraq are trying to diversify their economies away from those markets.

"Signs of hope" for mining investment
Separately, RFC Ambrian’s, corporate broker, Charles Cryer, gave a presentation to Manajim delegates about the current state of investment in the mining sector. He said that there were "signs of hope on the horizon" for the mining market.

He added: "We are not yet at optimism, but we have passed depression, desperation and panic. Funding is still available for the right projects."

Cryer also mentioned that investors were increasingly concerned about risk and whether mining companies could make their projects profitable in this "challenging environment".

He said factors such as "poor share price performance" and "rising costs" have impacted on some exploration companies, which means that "less capital is available" for them. This has pushed some companies to find "more challenging finance solutions".

Civil unrest Speakers giving presentations at the Manajim Conference did not mention how the recent Iraq war (20032011) has affected mining development in the country, or how Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the extreme jihadi rebel group, was deterring investment.

Last year, IM reported that ISIL was disrupting operations by taking control of a phosphaterich area called Akashat.

Located in the western region of Iraq, close to the Syrian border, Akashat has been mined for phosphate since 1982 and contains reserves of 430m tonnes.

According to the Iraqi Ministry of Human Rights, ISIL had been transferring raw material of phosphate to Raqqa in Syria.

The deposit is the main source of phosphate fertiliser in Iraq, and Saudi Arabian news source Al Arabiya speculated that the material could be used in the production of explosives.