Development of mining industries in Yemen

The amount of natural resources of a country is the driving force of the living standards for the population of that country and the economic advancement. Poor, backward and least developed (third- world countries) are the ones suffering from a lack of resources and the abuse of such resources while the rich developed countries are the ones that enjoy a large amount of economic resources that are being perfectly utilized in the best possible ways. This shows the direct relationship between the economic wellbeing and the amount of available resources.

Moreover, countries have resorted to establishing special agencies to study these resources, their occurrence, utilizations, reserves, connection to the ambient environment and utilization for the best of the human being. This is the responsibility of the geological survey authorities in the world. Yemen is one of the countries that paid attention to that side because of its geological diversity and high mineral potential. Hence, and based on the works of the YGSMRB and those of the entities that preceded it, initial surveys and exploration works defining the indicators of promising wealth have been carried out.

The content laying underneath the ground (the crust) in terms of the natural resources such as iron, coal, copper and petroleum etc. are all natural resources which availability determines the nature of the economic activity of the population living in the areas where such resources exist especially when they occur within one geographic region so that one may not face any difficulties to acquire them nor during their production or their distribution.

The mining sector is an important financial asset and a strategic factor to upgrade the living conditions of the people in Yemen, improve the development facilities, bring the advanced technologies to double the industrial effectiveness and competitiveness of products in the global markets and create economic revenue that guarantees further future growth.

Yemen has exerted, following the guidelines of the political leadership and H.E President Ali Abdullah Saleh, President of the Republic, tremendous efforts over the past few years to attract the local and international investments to develop the mineral resources in order to develop the sector and diversify sources of national income. Such efforts involved the enforcement of several procedures to activate the investment climate, the issuance of the Mines and Quarries Law and the Investment Law to help implement the State investment policy, offering suggestions to motivate the investment climate and providing the geological and mineral information and feasibility studies to investors.

Out of its belief in the importance of industrial and construction minerals and rocks in social and economic development, the YGSMRB in the Ministry of Oil and Minerals has sought to study such materials because Yemen has a lot of high quality rocks of economic value as proven by the exploration studies in various locations. Therefore, all efforts had to be directed towards outlining the significance of these ores and studying the prospects of utilizing them optimally by determining the necessary technical and economic standards.

Through a detailed study, it became obvious that the vital factor in the success of the mining industries development project was the availability of an appropriate transportation means like a railway system to transport the ores from their mine sites to the industrial, production and consumption points. This is in addition to the accessibility of a special port to export these ores by establishing sea births in Balhaf, Shabwa which will lead to the development of the extraction industries. In addition, it is required to create a center for natural stone development and to qualify and train workers in this field on the use of modern machinery and equipment of extraction and manufacturing. This, in turn, will reflect positively on the development of this industry. The establishment of an industrial zone in Nashimah, Balhaf on the coast of the Arab Sea will certainly lead to moving and transfer of technology and increasing the skills of the manpower and providing the latest production and marketing methods for utilization and for higher added value.

It has been manifested through the geological surveys implemented by the YGSMRB that the optimal proposed route of the railways will be through Sana'a, AlJawf, Mareb and Shabwa due to the distinct nature of this belt and the extensive stocks of natural resources such as oil and gas, metallic minerals like gold, iron, copper, nickel, zinc, lead and industrial minerals like gypsum, saltpeter, limestone, mineral clay, silica and scoria in addition to rare types of the building and decoration stones like marble and granite. The railways will have the capacity to transform frozen resources into exploitable resources.

 The Project's Objectives:
• Investing the mineral resources explored for in Yemen which will lead to accelerating the pace of development in AlJawf, Mareb and Shabwa as a first stage forming a connected geographic region.
• Securing job opportunities in a way that enables the mitigation of the unemployment and poverty problems.
• Diversifying the national income sources, expanding the production base and reducing the dependency on crude oil production and exportation as a key national income source.
• Contributing to the activation of other economic sectors within the one geographic belt through the use of the infrastructure required by the project.

Since YGSMRB is studying and preparing the mineral resources for the optimal investments and is targeting the inception of exploitation, it has undertaken the responsibility of elaborating this project in the hopes this study will light the candle that will spread the light for different future pathways with the optimal use of an important resource.

By looking closely at the known deposits of mineral resources in Yemen, it will become more obvious to all governorates that they must provide the necessary infrastructure to optimally develop these deposits on an internationally competitive basis.  Such infrastructure will include provision of the cheap transportation systems and ports for exportation along with centers for the development of the natural stone industry in Yemen in order to train the cadres that will extract and manufacture the natural stones. This is in addition to the creation of industrial zones with all the necessary infrastructures and facilities like electricity and water at favourable prices.

The strategic Criteria of the project:

 • The Economic Criteria:
This project will constitute a significant step in the enhancement of the economic dimension in terms of the distribution of the Yemeni products, especially following the establishment of the railways, which will reflect positively on the marketing track and their position among the international products taking into account Yemen's will to join the WTO despite the extensive challenges that require the early preparation. The importance of extending these development avenues relies on:
• The creation of railways starting from Sana'a and passing across AlJawf, Mareb, Shabwa and ending Balhaf port on the Arab Sea will enable the transportation of minerals from the sites.
• The transportation of the imported materials through the seaports by the railways system will provide 2 million people in the Capital with the consumable commodities imported from abroad.
• The railways will hastily transport the products which mean that they will reach the local and international markets and will pump revenues, expand investments and revive industries.
• The railway system will help move the advanced machinery to the sites where such machinery is prefabricated in and outside Yemen.  This in turn will facilitate the transportation of mineral concentrates to refining and production centres and  centres for downstream processing which will lead eventually to the development of  high-technology industries and industrial towns.
• The existence of railway system will lead to the creation of new outlets for exportation of national products to the international markets in competitive rates generating more profits and making them internationally recognizable in addition to the benefits of importation with better transport rates.
• The fact that the railways will cross the small towns, villages and isolated settlements will revive them economically through generating commercial activities in train stations, trolleys services and the maintenance stations as well as providing access of local produce to bigger markets..
• An industrial integration will take place and will lead to expanding the industrial base due to the added value of industries; chemical industries and building and decoration stones industry…etc.
• Economic and commercial exchange with the Arab countries and the world will increase with the introduction of non-oil exports allowing Yemen to take an advanced position among the industrial countries.

 • The Development Criteria:
This project, which involves the creation of a railway system, is one of the greatest components of infrastructure as it will push the internal development process forward and strengthen the connection between the different economic activities.

The key development advantages are:
- Generating new job opportunities to contain the national qualifications and eliminate unemployment among the youth as they will be prepared to become productive and beneficial members in the society.
- The railway system will require accompanying services throughout the road such as the maintenance stations which require technical experience which calls for the creation of population settlements and new towns to reduce immigration to cities and minimize congestions in the cities.
- Facilitating the transportation of equipment and products to the remote areas, by the private sector which will lead to establishing new commercial and industrial projects close to the mine sites leading to the prosperity of the adjacent areas and serving nearby villages
- Reducing the congestions and traffic jams on highways which will prolong their life expectancy and save the maintenance funds which could be directed towards the creation of new roads serving other areas and developing them.
- Smooth arrival of imported commodities to the internal areas in economic costs to reach the consumer in good prices. This will also activate the commercial activities in these areas.

 • The Environmental Criteria
The environment poses a significant concern for many countries due to the pollution resulting from the factories and transportation means. Hence, most countries are paying more attention to this issue upon drawing their future strategies by minimizing the use of vehicles and techniques emitting pollutants and non-concentration of all the industrial projects in one area. Therefore, the use of railways is one of the ways which reduces the use of trucks and products on roads leading to protecting the environment and reducing the load on such roads.

 • The Tourism Criteria:
Tourism is an important economic asset for any country that seeks to diversify its income sources. AlJawf, Mareb and Shabwa are featured by a substantial tourism variety with the sites of ancient civilizations including the recently discovered sites by the European and American archeological expeditions leading to unearthing multiple sites such as the old Mareb Dam, Baraqish, Balqis throne, Awam Temple…etc. adding to the desert nature of these governorates which allows the organization of sports events like car races and camel races..etc. these governorates are also characterized by the geological tourism factors such as the hot springs and geological diversity (limestone rocks with fossils and the beautiful topography and buildings). Hence, the establishment of this project and the railways system will attract many local, Arab and foreign tourists.

 The Project's Components:
• The availability of a massive stock of mineral resources within one geographic region (Sana'a, Aljawf, Mareb and Shabwa).
• The local and international demand for mineral resources which means that Yemen can export is mineral products at competitive rates.
• The success of similar international experiences (Egypt, Turkey, India and China).
• The region has a friendly topography enabling the creation of railways to facilitate the transportation and exportation of minerals which will encourage local and foreign investors to engage in the development of mineral resources since the railways will minimize the transportation costs. This will promote competitiveness of the exported minerals and will double the quantities available for export.
• The area is close to Bir Ali seaport which is on the Arab Sea and which is one of the best seaports in the Arabian Peninsula.
• The abundance of the labor force.
• The laws and regulations that encourage the exploitation of mineral resources.

The Project's basic requirements:

• Establishing a railway system:
Although Yemen is one of the best options for international investors based on a number of factors such as the political stability, freedom of refinancing, custom exemptions and the preferable treatment in the public procurement contracts, there are several obstacles hampering the investors tendency to invest in the mining sector and preventing the increase of activities in mining and minerals processing.

On top of these obstacles is the unavailability of a proper transport such as a railway system to transport the mine product to the points of manufacturing, production and markets and export. The railways, when available, will form a significant bridge for development and an artery for the national economy through which natural resources are efficiently invested with profitability and continued pace of manufacturing. There is no doubt that the establishment of the railways system connecting the areas to each other will also increase the profits of the investing companies and attract new ones. This will also improve many facilities in the country across which the railways pass creating more jobs and a vibrant economic, commercial and social movement.

What adds to the importance of the railways system it that most studies and researches have emphasized the fact that natural resources can only blossom effectively with the provision of a safe and cheap transport system. The feasibility and effectiveness of the mining projects are both largely dependent on the establishment of railway systems to transport the minerals from the mines to the manufacturing and exportation points. This confirms the interlocked connection between the future of the mining industries and the construction of railways to connect the seaports on the Arab Sea. It is noteworthy that the cost of transportation per one ton of minerals through railways is 1-1.5 cent per ton/km while it hits 10 cents per ton/km when transported by trucks.

The Railway system proposal for mineral resources

• Technical qualification of the workers in the mining industry:
By reviewing the reports of YGSMRB related to the exploration and assessment of the minerals of industrial and construction minerals and rocks, in addition to the reports of the German team on the assessment of the construction and decoration stones sector in Yemen, it is clear that the development of quarries for construction and decoration stones must be carried out by skilled personnel because unskilled personal can produce 70-90% reject. This is a waste of the mineral wealth which should be optimally utilized for the development of the national economy. Studies indicated that among the key reasons for such problem were the lack of a qualified technical manpower and the use of primitive ways to extract the minerals in addition to the non-utilization of the internationally adopted modern technology. Hence, it is clear and without doubt that there is a need to train the workers in mining industries by establishing a technical center that teaches the modern scientific ways for utilization of minerals and the safety and security measures in quarries and crushers sites. This will massively affect the development of this industry (annex 1). This center could be similar to the Marble and Granite Technology Center which was set up in Egypt. This center may be established within the faculty of Petroleum and Minerals in Shabwa in coordination with the relevant bodies.

•  Establishing an industrial zone:
Industrial zones are factors for success of any industry. In order to improve the mining industries in Yemen, an industrial zone is to be established. Through coordination between the MOM represented in YGSMRB and the Ministry of Trade and Industry, the creation of an industrial zone has been proposed in Al-Nashimah in Balhaf, Shabwa by the Ministry of Trade and Industry. A study was carried out by consultants from Egypt who paid a visit to the region and determined the coordinates of it. This was accompanied with the seismic reports of the industrial zone with a total proposed area of 14,728 km2. The report included the following:
"Balhaf, Shabwa is a promising economic area for the Republic of Yemen due to the its location on trade route and the variety of or products passing through it, both from nearby and from indigenous economic resources including those in the nearby governorates such as oil, gas, industrial and construction rocks, building materials, marble, and granite and decorations stones. According to the plans, a port for gas, oil and construction materials exportation will be established. It is the last stop of the railway line which will connect Sana'a, AlJawf, Mareb and Shabwa and hence there should be a quality industrial zone for petrochemicals and building materials industries. At present, the procedures of receiving and handing over the land of the industrial zone are being completed and then the necessary technical studies will be initiated.

The importance of the industrial zone is related to the fact that it will play a significant role in increasing the State's economic revenues, creating job opportunities and increasing the added value of the minerals such as granite and marble which will be cut, polished and sold in plates and double the value which could have been lost had it been sold in bulk.

It is noteworthy that work is underway now in Saudi Arabia to create a comprehensive mining town from mine to mineral at a cost of 30 billion Saudi Rials. The Saudi Oil Minister stated that; "the Saudi industrial mining town will be the first of its kind in the middle east. Work has already begun so that it will involve all the production and manufacturing phases from the mine to the mineral in its final shape." The industrial town 'Sahq Al-Thuban" which was set up between Cairo and Hilwan in Egypt has largely contributed to the improvement of the building and decoration stones and the mining industries and it attracted 200 thousand workers.

• Establishing industrial complexes for the construction stones saws in Yemen:
Yemen is featured by the extremely large quantities and types of the building and decoration rocks. This sector has seen a remarkable improvement over the recent years leading to the expansion of cities and villages alike with such rocks being used as basic materials in the construction of homes and facilities. During the past decades, the population has doubled with an accompanying economic and social development and that has led to increasing the demand for the construction materials to meet the demand of the construction sector and the infrastructures. This was reflected in the mushrooming of the stones cutting and polishing saws. This sector has gained a regional and international interest due to the quality and diversity of minerals. In order to activate the role of the mineral resources in the national economy development by generating job opportunities and developing the local communities on the one hand and minimizing the environmental pollution and waste of resources on the other, a vision has been elaborated to activate one of the most important construction sectors. The vision proposes the establishment of complexes for the building and decoration stones saws in the governorates where such saws are largely prevalent such as in Sana'a, Dhamar, Amran, Mareb, Taiz and Ibb.

The proposal of establishing industrial complexes

• Establishing a special port for exportation of the minerals
Due to the special nature of the transportation process through ships and vessels, it is crucial to establish a port for the exportation of minerals. Such was proposed in Balhaf on the Arab Sea in coordination with YGSMRB and the Ministry of Transportation being the competent body. The Ministry of Transportation and the local offices in Shabwa and Hadramawt are undertaking studies for the creation of specialized ports to receive purpose built mineral transportation ships. This is an urgent matter and one of the basic foundations of this project.

Mineral Strategy Development of mining industries in Yemen