Saudi Arabia to spend $3.8bn to enhance mineral exploration

Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s top phosphate suppliers and its mining sector employs around 250,000 people. (File/AFP)
Updated 07 February 2019

Saudi Arabia to spend $3.8bn to enhance mineral exploration

  • The government has identified 51 potential exploration projects, including 14 gold and 14 copper
  • Investments will be made through the National Industrial Development and Logistics Program

CAPE TOWN: Saudi Arabia will invest around $3.8 billion to enhance access to geoscience data and reduce regulatory red tape as it looks to boost mineral exploration, senior government officials said on Wednesday.
Government plans to jump-start the Saudi mining sector form part of a broader industrial strategy aimed at diversifying the economy and attracting private-sector investments worth 1.6 trillion riyals ($426 billion) over the next decade.
Investments will be made through the National Industrial Development and Logistics Program (NIDLP), part of Vision 2030, a reform strategy led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and intended to wean the economy off oil while creating jobs.
“For some time Saudi mining has been characterised by a lack of publicly available geoscience data, longer processing times on licenses and a lack of transparency,” Khalid Al-Mudaifer, vice minister of mining, told an African mining conference.
He said the $3.8 billion would be spent on making it easier to do business and improving data quality to reduce the risks associated with investing in new mining opportunities for gold, zinc, rare earth metals and other minerals.
Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s top phosphate suppliers and its mining sector employs around 250,000 people.
The vice minister also said the government was working on a digital platform to help finalize exploration licenses within 60 days, compared to six months at present.
“Also the law allows 100 percent ownership ... and you can apply for exploration or mining licenses,” he said.
Earlier, Abdulrahman Al-Belushi, who heads mining strategy at the NIDLP, said there were vast opportunities in Saudi Arabia should investors look to exploit mineral resources valued at an estimated $1.3 trillion.
“Aside from the oil and gas in the eastern part of the kingdom, we have been blessed with tremendous geological potential that remains vastly unexplored,” he said.
The government has identified 51 potential exploration projects, including 14 gold and 14 copper, covering around 1,351 square kilometers that could be among the first targeted, another official said.


‘Floating Island’ points to greener tourism

A view of the resort on an artificial island made with recycled plastic waste on the Ebrie Lagoon in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. (AFP)
Updated 4 min 37 sec ago

‘Floating Island’ points to greener tourism

  • The island charges 15,000 CFA francs ($25) per person per day, which includes a meal and the ferry, and 60,000 CFA francs for a night

ABIDJAN: The seaside resort offers visitors a cool drink or tasty meal, a dip in a pool, a karaoke session or an overnight stay, all with a view.
Nothing much new there, you may say — creature comforts like this are pretty much standard in tropical hotels.
The big difference, though, is that this mini resort is also a moveable island that floats on plastic bottles.
Riding on the laguna in Abidjan, Ivory Coast’s economic hub, the unusual complex floats on a platform made from 700,000 discarded bottles and other buoyant debris.
Its inventor, Frenchman Eric Becker, says his creation can help greener, more mobile tourism — something less harmful to seas and coastlines than traditional fixed, concrete resorts.
His “Ile Flottante” — French for “Floating Island” — comprises two thatched bungalows and a restaurant, two small pools, trees and shrubs and a circular walkway, spread out over 1,000 square meters.
Visitors are brought to the moored island by a boat. Water is provided by a pipe from the shore. Electricity is supplied by solar panels, backed by a generator.
The island is bigger than a moored boat and handier than a jetty as it can also be taken to other locations, Becker told AFP.
“It really is an artificial island that floats — you can move it.”
Becker, a former computer entrepreneur, first toyed with the idea of building a catamaran.
But it was when he came to Abidjan and saw the lagoon that the vision of a floating, moveable island came into his mind — and he sold everything he owned to achieve it. The first step was to forage for everything floatable — “plastic bottles, bits of polystyrene, even beach sandals.”
Bemused locals gave him the nickname of “Eric Bidon” — a word that has a subtle dual meaning of jerrycan and phoney.
“We bought disused bottles off people, we foraged for them in the lagoon. After a while, we learned to follow the wind and find the places where floating rubbish accumulates,” he said.
After living on his island for a number of years, Becker turned it into a hotel last year.
He has around 100 customers a week, mostly curious Ivorians or ecologically friendly tourists.

Others want a relaxing break from the bustling city and to use its swimming pools — taking a dip in the lagoon, fouled by industrial pollution and sewage outflows is an act for the foolhardy.
“When you’re competing with major hotels, you need an original idea like a floating island. It’s become a tourist attraction,” said Mathurin Yao Saky, a friend who has been advising Becker on the scheme.
Charles Moliere, a 28-year-old Frenchman who works in Ivory Coast for a large corporation, read about the resort in a guidebook.
“It’s very original, it’s a very untypical place — I’ve seen nothing like it elsewhere,” he said.
“I think it’s a neat idea to give a second life to plastic like this and to make a kind of small technical breakthrough. I like this place a lot.”
The island charges 15,000 CFA francs ($25) per person per day, which includes a meal and the ferry, and 60,000 CFA francs for a night.