Dimension Stone Industry in Yemen [Archives:2005/875/Last Page]

September 8 2005

By Michelle Annand
For the Yemen Times

Four German specialists in the stone industry from the German Ministry of Technological Cooperation (GTZ) held a workshop on Tuesday, 30th August, at the Ministry of Oil, Geological Survey and Mineral Resources Board.

Dr Ismail Al Ganad, the Head of the Board, was the main facilitator, and Dr Rasheed Baraba, The Minister of Oil and Minerals, was present to open the workshop. Eighty participants attended, twenty of them being top players in the stone industry, such as quarry owners, stone producers, and building companies.

The main topic of discussion was in regard to further development of the stone industry in Yemen. The main points ranged from increasing demand, to improving infrastructure and technical training. Currently there is only on the job training and no nationally accredited program..

The four German members of GTZ all presented information at the workshop and discussed their experience over the last fourteen days of their visit to Yemen. They seemed particularly interested in local geology facts and expressed a wish to visit prospective sites. Before the site is quarried, the geological properties of the stone need to be examined and understood.

Professor Dr Thomas Kimbauer made a presentation on defining the deposit to establish its evaluation. Dr Stefan Bruggerhoff made a presentation in regard to laboratory equipment and facilities in Yemen, and made his recommendations about the equipment, maintenance and education of the staff. The conclusion was that the situation is satisfactory here, but that there is a problem with lack of coordination.

Heinrich Korfmann made his presentation on quarrying technology and stone processing technology, as well as the marketing aspects with respect to global market opportunities. For example, Korfmann stated that the total export of stone products in Yemen in 2003 was $US 125,000. The worldwide import total in 2003 was 6.3 billion dollars, thus Yemen shares 0.002 % of the world market of stone.

Yemen is very rich in dimensional stone but does not use the opportunities to participate in the global market. This project endeavored to locate the gaps in the Yemeni stone industry in order to overcome them. Some of the gaps are through lack of coordination. Another problem is when dimensional stone is quarried, the methods currently used are drilling and blasting as the means for excavation, and this means approximately 70 – 90 % in loss of production. Technology is absent in Yemen whereas in Germany state of the art tools are used for these procedures, such as “diamond wire use”, for shaping the stone, and the “chainsaw” is used as the stone cutting machine. Germany leads the world in quarrying and stone recovery technology and is frequently copied, says Korfmann.

Yemen needs to be open for discussion and compete in the global market, alongside other big producers of dimensional stone products such as China and India, and also needs to invest in technology to keep costs low. Both China and Yemen share similar labor costs. Here in Yemen the use of dimension and ornamental stone is very widespread with a long and distinguished tradition. Dimension stone products currently used cover a wide range of rock types, including some extraordinarily attractive and very rare rocks. These include blue marble, limestone with distinctive fossils and several multi-colored granites.

Despite the excellent stone deposits, necessary development potential remains still unused. Yemen has not acquired the technologies that can follow international standards today. This concerns all steps of technology; exploration, extraction, processing and trading. The GTZ workshop aimed to analyze Yemen's chances of developing existing technologies and of becoming an internationally competitive producer.