CHICAGO (AP) â¿¿ Wallboard maker USG Corp. said Monday that it will invest about $60 million over the next two years as part of a partnership with the Zawawi Group of Oman to capitalize on growing demand for building products in the Middle East and India. Chicago-based USG said the investment will provide new opportunities in the rapidly expanding Indian wallboard market, and will give commercial construction projects in the region better access to USG wallboard products. USG expects most of its $60 million to be invested this year. The company also said Monday that it's exploring "strategic alternatives" for its European operations, including their possible sale. The businesses in question manufacture and distribute ceiling grid systems and finishing compounds throughout Europe and Russia. The first phase of the Oman partnership calls for the establishment of a mining joint venture through which USG will acquire 55 percent of Zawawi Gypsum, which holds the mining rights to a gypsum quarry in Oman. The joint venture will develop infrastructure and operate the quarry, with mining operations scheduled to start in the third quarter of 2013. The second phase will be a manufacturing joint venture with Zawawi Minerals to build and operate a new wallboard plant close to the quarry in Oman, with plans to begin wallboard production in the fourth quarter of 2013. USG shares rose 72 cents, or 3.8 percent, to $19.77 in afternoon trading.