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.


Shara Art Fair brings together Saudi artists

Updated 25 November 2020

Shara Art Fair brings together Saudi artists

  • With the global pandemic closing art galleries and canceling live events, artists took a hit like many other workers

JEDDAH: The Saudi Art Council brought together a wide range of local artists after the months-long lockdown for the 6th Shara Art Fair, which was recently launched in Jeddah at the council’s headquarters.

With the global pandemic closing art galleries and canceling live events, artists took a hit like many other workers. The Shara Art Fair, however, allowed artists from all across the country to exhibit their talents in seven art galleries.

The participating galleries included Athr Gallery, Hafez Gallery, 6th Sense Art, Noor Gallery, Tasami Creative Lab, BHAC, and Visual Stations.

Heba Abed, a visual artist and painter, said that her life during the pandemic was a combination of “watching TV, eating, and painting.”

Inspired by her surroundings, Abed’s artwork was a collection of one hundred paintings that exhibit the emotions she felt during the hundred days of quarantine.

“Some of the paintings express the feelings I had while in quarantine, while others are inspired by fairy tales because there was a lot of time for our minds to wander while we were stuck at home,” she told Arab News. 

Heba Abed

She added: “I would sometimes paint more than one painting a day during the lockdown. While we were all bored, I decided to practice the thing I loved most. I found inspiration in my life, in society and in everything that happened around me.”

Artist Elham Dawsari, on the other hand, used the 1990s as inspiration for her artwork, “Nefa,” which means a spacious place with few to no walls. The installation, featuring clay women set over acrylic boxes with mirrors inside, is meant to symbolize the women’s untold stories.

“The idea behind the piece was to represent the lives of the women in the 90s,” she said.

Cutouts hang from the ceiling of the gallery around the art, which according to Dawsari, symbolize the urban landscaping at the time and the style of the houses.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The Shara Art Fair allowed artists from all across the country to exhibit their talents in seven art galleries.

• The participating galleries included Athr Gallery, Hafez Gallery, 6th Sense Art, Noor Gallery, Tasami Creative Lab, BHAC, and Visual Stations.

“They also show how those designs imposed themselves on our lives,” she said. “They show certain aspects of society and how we behaved and how our bodies looked because of the limited space we had to walk around in; they were fuller but also more muscular because of all the hard work the women used to do.”

The clay figures of the women are based on Dawsari’s memory and the collective memory of her family.

Another piece featured large wooden dolls perched on a table. As time passed, the artist painted more dolls. The founder of Dar Malak, Malak Masallati, was the designer and director of the project and expressed the hope that her wooden dolls would become the next “Saudi Wooden Dolls.”

“I wanted to create wooden dolls that represent our country and its culture and that could become an icon. I called the project ‘Nasana’,” she told Arab News.

Dar Malak worked with designers and artisans to translate the idea of Masallati into actual objects.

Masallati worked with a wood factory that handled the woodturning and scaling for her.

“I did my research on the proportions of the human body, using examples of different bodies to create the variety you see here,” she added.