Groundbreaking Research by Sultan Qaboos University
A new study conducted by researchers Ashraf Mishrif and Asharul Khan of Sultan Qaboos University (SQU) emphasizes the vast potential for lithium mining in Oman. This research, published by the university’s Humanities Research Centre, marks a significant step in understanding the Sultanate’s role in the global lithium market and the clean energy sector.
Rich Lithium Sources Identified
The study identifies two primary sources of lithium in Oman: the mudflats of Umm as Samim in Al Dhahirah Governorate and the lithium-rich seawaters off Mahout in Al Wusta Governorate. The Umm as Samim mudflats, one of the largest in the Arabian Peninsula, contain significant deposits of spodumene, a key lithium ore due to its high lithium concentration. The briny seawater near Mahout also presents a viable source, with lithium concentrations ranging from 0.14 to 0.25 parts per million.
Current and Future Exploitation
Currently, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) exploit the sediments in these regions mainly for industrial salts used in the oil and gas sector. However, the Ministry of Energy and Minerals is evaluating at least three applications for lithium exploration and development, suggesting a shift towards broader lithium extraction initiatives.
Potential for EV Battery Manufacturing
The study also points out the potential of these sites to support commercial-scale lithium extraction, which could fuel the manufacturing of lithium-ion batteries for Electric Vehicles (EV) and Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs) in the future. Lithium’s increasing utilization in various sectors, including aircraft, electronics, pharmaceuticals, and battery production for electronic devices, underscores its growing importance.
Government Initiatives and Investments
The Ministry of Energy and Minerals awarded a significant concession earlier this year to UK-based Knights Bay for developing lithium and cobalt-rich laterites in a 1,444 sq km mineral block in the Wilayat of Ibra. Additionally, the Oman Investment Authority (OIA) has invested in various international companies specializing in lithium and non-lithium-based battery technologies and other clean energy innovations.
Implications for Oman and Global Market
This study sheds light on Oman’s potential to become a significant player in the lithium market, aligning with global trends towards clean energy and electric mobility. The exploration and development of lithium resources could position Oman as a crucial supplier in the burgeoning EV and renewable energy sectors, marking a strategic shift in its economic and industrial landscape.