Saudi mining industry explores new horizons

A series of major mining initiatives — some of which have already been completed — have laid the foundations for the industry to highlight its abilities in serving local communities. (Supplied)
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Updated 14 September 2020

Saudi mining industry explores new horizons

  • ‘Desire for top-notch industry’ will boost growth and investment, says deputy minister

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s mining strategy has always been ambitious, experts say. According to them, the Kingdom’s core economic message is clear. By 2030, the mining sector aims to be the third pillar of the country’s industry, using the wealth of mineral resources to attract local and global investment.

Experts say this is not only because of the ease of access for private sector investors, but also through acknowledgment that the Kingdom provides unique prospects, such as a wide variety of minerals and metals in abundance, tax incentives, legislation providing easy access to mining licenses and a premium labor force.

The vision pushes beyond economic growth in its desire to not only grow the country’s gross domestic product, but provide for the Kingdom’s people through the growth of underdeveloped areas, the creation of hundreds of thousands of jobs and provide prosperity within local communities.

While there have been challenges in the past, a series of major mining initiatives — some of which have already been completed — have laid the foundations for the industry to highlight its abilities in serving local communities.

Some of these projects have become destinations in their own right, showing the intersection where technology, industry and social upliftment meet.

Take for example, Wa’ad Al-Shamal, the Promise of the North. Established as a promise to the people of the then-underdeveloped Northern Borders Region by the Kingdom, the project was always about improving the lives of the people living there. Seven years since construction began, Wa’ad Al-Shamal has become one of the Kingdom’s mining centers. Wa’ad Al-Shamal has already created 20,000 jobs, and will become a community of its own, with a hundred housing units, a massive road network, water and sanitation infrastructure, and shopping and recreational centers.

Once the next development phase is complete, the Kingdom is set to become the world’s second-largest producer of phosphate fertilizers and an agricultural export giant, a key aspect in the country’s development and reform plan, Saudi Vision 2030. Beyond this, the mining hub has also blossomed into a power generation facility that provides electricity to more than 500,000 homes. Earlier this year, Wa’ad Al Shamal’s electrical facilities were awarded a five-star rating by the Saudi Electric Company for environment, health and safety performance — even in the wake of the pandemic.

“The desire to create a top-notch industry is personified in Wa’ad Al-Shamal, and it has shown the importance of combining technological advancements, our own growth and experience within the sector and the desire to see our people flourish. These cities are an example of how a mining operation and a community can be in symbiosis, aiding in each other’s development,” said Khalid Al-Mudaifer, deputy minister of mining affairs.

Equally ambitious has been the continued growth of the Ras Al-Khair Mineral Industrial City. Not only does it operate as a residential, power generation and mining hub in the east of the Kingdom, the city acts as a one-stop-shop in processing 740,000 metric tons of aluminum annually through its use of the largest aluminum smelter in the world. When it was first launched in 2016, the 90 square kilometer area was already housing 12,000 workers, and was the first site in the country that was equipped with the infrastructure to access the phosphate stores that had been waiting 35 million years to be harvested.

“We hope that these centers of industry, Ras Al-Khair and Wa’ad Al-Shamal, will set the benchmark for future mining projects in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Through private sector investment – locally and globally – we hope that we can see other hubs emerge that will provide further opportunities to provide job opportunities for our youth and create new value chains that will enhance community growth and development. This alongside the development of infrastructure and digital mining technologies that will continue to improve the already high standards of safety, sustainability and overall efficiency,” said Al-Mudaifer.

Beyond the continued bids to bring in industry investment and facilitate growth across the sector, the ministry’s overall strategy continues to evolve, Al-Mudaifer added. He said that as changes to legislation ease the investment process, there are also numerous committees and collaborations with the Ministry of Investment to push for rapid growth of the sector.

“There is a determination, an institutionalized determination, to increase investor attraction. It has become simpler than ever before for investors to invest, which we believe is unique in this region,” he said.


Saudi health minister promises to procure tested COVID-19 vaccine

Saudi Health Minister Tawfiq Al-Rabiah. (AP)
Updated 20 October 2020

Saudi health minister promises to procure tested COVID-19 vaccine

JEDDAH: Saudi Health Minister Tawfiq Al-Rabiah on Monday said the Kingdom will procure vaccine for the novel coronavirus once it is confirmed to be safe and effective.

He said research on the vaccine is underway in a number of countries and the Saudi health authorities are following the developments.
The number of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases continues to decline in the Kingdom with the recovery rate from the illness rising to 96 percent. The minister attributed the decline on the “commitment to health precautions.”
“I also thank my fellow health practitioners for their wonderful efforts,” Al-Rabiah said.
Commenting on the second and stronger wave of COVID-19 in some countries, he said it was due to a lack of “commitment to social distancing” and failure to wear masks and taking other precautions.
He ruled out any leniency on part of the government in its fight against the virus. The minister said it is necessary to abide by precautionary measures to keep the virus at bay.

FASTFACTS

• Saudi Arabia recorded 381 new infections on Monday.

• With 16 new fatalities, the virus-related death toll has risen to 5,201.

“We (all) are in one boat, and the failure of some affects everyone, so we must work together” to check the spread of the virus.
He also advised people who show COVID-19 symptoms to visit Tetamman (rest assured) clinics.
“Appointments can be made through the ministry’s Sehaty app, and anyone who has any questions or wants to consult a doctor can call 937,” the minister said.
Saudi Arabia recorded 381 new infections on Monday. The total number of COVID-19 cases has reached 348,583 since the beginning of the outbreak in the Kingdom.
The Health Ministry said 16 more people died due to complications caused by the virus raising the death toll to 5,201. The ministry also reported 357 new recoveries. The total number of recovered cases has now increased to 328,895.