Saudi mineral wealth could top $1.3 trillion amid Kingdom’s aggressive exploration plan

Saudi mineral wealth could top $1.3 trillion amid Kingdom’s aggressive exploration plan
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Updated 10 January 2022

Saudi mineral wealth could top $1.3 trillion amid Kingdom’s aggressive exploration plan

Saudi mineral wealth could top $1.3 trillion amid Kingdom’s aggressive exploration plan

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia expects its mineral wealth to exceed earlier estimates of $1.3 trillion as the Kingdom plans to triple spending on the exploration of metals over the next three years, said the head of the organization responsible for assessing its geological potential.

Abdullah bin Muftar Al-Shamrani, CEO of the Saudi Geological Survey, said that this prior estimate was made a few years ago when prices of minerals were lower.

“Now we have seen that the price is increasing, it is expected that the forecast of [...] prices is really going to be increased because of that demand of those material,” he said in an exclusive interview with Arab News.

The aim is now to almost triple exploration spending per square meter to SR220 ($58.7) within the next two to three years.

The increased expenditure will “expedite the mining sector targets” and would help in discovering more locations. Al-Shamrani said that the Kingdom is going “aggressive” on exploration.

He added that the number of mining sites in the Kingdom could exceed 5,500.

Supporting a greener future

The Kingdom wants to be part of the global supply chain for raw materials that will go into many viable products to support industries such as renewable energy, he said. 

It's now determined to develop all these resources with the help of international investors who will be in need for more data. The organization known as SGS has developed a huge database for this purpose.

When asked about the key minerals that Saudi Arabia possessed, the CEO said: “We are talking about cobalt, lithium, titanium, rare earth — all of those will make the future more sustainable if they are used efficiently.  The future is talking all about the renewable energy and the good thing [..] is that Saudi Arabia has those minerals.” He said that they are crucial in the global transition to cleaner sources of power.

Other strategic minerals include copper, zinc and Saudi silica, the latter being one of the most highly concentrated around the world. However, it is not only renewable energy-related minerals that are in abundance in the Kingdom.

“When we talk about minerals in Saudi Arabia, we’re talking about around 48 minerals. Some of them are very critical for global needs,” he said. Some minerals, such as phosphate — which is used for fertilizers — are important to fulfill goals such as food security.

He confirmed the Kingdom’s “very good potential” for specific traditional minerals including gold and silver.

Sudden Change

When asked about why the mining sector seemed to take a back seat in previous years, Al-Shamrani replied that exploration spending in the past decade was not enough to focus on the investment potential in the sector.

“But when Vision 2030 indicated that the mining sector should be the third pillar of the country’s industry, a good amount — around SR3.8 billion — was injected into the mining sector.” The aim of this spending, he said, was to invest in the sector to discover opportunities all around the country.

The CEO hopes three points will be agreed on by attendees at next week’s Future Minerals Forum. The first of these is to work out the demand for minerals in the upcoming 10 to 30 years.

The second is to see how these needs will be satisfied. The third is to make sure people are more educated about sustainability and efficiency.

Saudi Arabia is trying to attract a mix of local and international investors in mining opportunities. Al-Shamrani assured international investors that the sector will follow internationally recognized ESG guidelines.

He said certain conditions are being put on the mining sector as the Kingdom pursues its goal of reducing its carbon footprint and becoming carbon neutral by 2060.

“We understand the challenges the mining sector is facing,” Al-Shamrani said.




Saudi Arabia is placing certain conditions on the mining sector as it pursues its 2060 vision of reducing its carbon footprint. (Supplied)

FMF 2022

Riyadh will host this week its first future minerals forum that will attract top industry players and ministers from many countries.

The CEO had three things in mind that he hopes will be agreed upon by attendees in the Future Minerals Forum. 

The first of these is to discover minerals’ needs in the upcoming 10 to 30 years. Secondly, it should be pointed out how these needs would be satisfied. The final thing is making sure that people are more educated about sustainability and efficiency.

FASTFACT

Saudi Arabia is trying to attract a mix of local and international investors in mining opportunities. Al-Shamrani assured international investors that the sector will follow ESG guidelines.

Serving society

“We are full of minerals that will serve humanity around the globe, and within Saudi Arabia,” Al-Shamrani said.
An advantage of the mining industry is that it’s not concentrated in the cities, and with more projects in remote areas, it can help to limit rural-urban migration across the Kingdom.
He cited examples such as Waad Al Shamal, Mahd Al Dahab (Cradle of Gold) and Jabal Sayid; all were virtually empty before but were later developed.

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Frankly Speaking: Saudi Arabia can be a leading oil exporter while also fighting climate change, says deputy minister for environment

Frankly Speaking: Saudi Arabia can be a leading oil exporter while also fighting climate change, says deputy minister for environment
Updated 59 min 26 sec ago

Frankly Speaking: Saudi Arabia can be a leading oil exporter while also fighting climate change, says deputy minister for environment

Frankly Speaking: Saudi Arabia can be a leading oil exporter while also fighting climate change, says deputy minister for environment
  • Appearing on the video interview series, Dr. Osama Faqeeha points out that the problem lies not in hydrocarbons but emissions
  • He says Saudi Green Initiative target will be achieved with due consideration for environmental sustainability

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia can retain its role as the leading exporter of oil in the world while pursuing an ambitious strategy to mitigate the effects of climate change, one of the Kingdom’s leading environmental policymakers has told Arab News.

Dr. Osama Faqeeha, deputy minister for environment, water and agriculture, said that the issue for the Kingdom and the world was to deal with polluting emissions from hydrocarbon production, while exploring other uses for oil products and renewable alternatives.

“I think we don’t see the problem in the hydrocarbons; we see the problem in the emissions,” he said, pointing out that “petrochemicals, plastic, medical supplies, clothing and other things are made from hydrocarbons; the emissions are the issue — namely, CO2 emissions.”

Faqeeha, who is closely involved in implementing the measures of the Saudi Green Initiative unveiled last year, was appearing on Frankly Speaking, the series of video interviews with leading policymakers and business people.

He also spoke of the ambitious plan to plant 10 billion trees in the Kingdom, the campaign to protect its environmental eco-system and biodiversity, and efforts to improve the air quality in the capital Riyadh and other big cities.

Faqeeha said that the environmental campaign launched in the SGI was part of a comprehensive strategy to tackle the challenges of climate change and global warming.

“In this situation, Saudi Arabia has launched the Circular Carbon Economy approach, which is really to treat CO2 like any other waste, by basically taking it and recycling it in various ways.

“We have to realize that there is no single approach that can single-handedly address the global climate change challenge.

“We need renewable energy, we need the Circular Carbon Economy, we need recycling, we need to stop this deforestation, preserve habitats, reduce marine plastics. We have to focus on all of this,” he said.

The plan to plant 10 billion trees in Saudi Arabia over the coming decades, a striking feature of the SGI, is acknowledged as a challenge given the Kingdom’s desert climate and relatively low level of rainfall.

“Definitely this is a very challenging, ambitious target. As His Royal Highness the Crown Prince (Mohammed bin Salman) announced, the time frame will be over the next few decades. Our focus really is on environmental sustainability. We intend to achieve this target with due consideration for environmental sustainability.

“To achieve this, first of all we will focus on using native plant species in the Kingdom. Believe it or not, there are more than 2,000 documented species of flora in the Kingdom that have adapted to the dry and arid climate in Saudi Arabia.

“So, really these plants thrived in this environment and (fully) adapted to it,” he said.

The tree planting program — already under way — would focus on four main areas: Restoring natural flora in mountains and valleys; an “urban greening” program for the big cities; plantation in agricultural areas to support food production and rural communities; and tree planting along major highways to counter sand encroachment and enhance the experience of travelers.

Renewable water sources would also be used in the tree-planting program, to avoid endangering precious groundwater. Treated wastewater and rain harvesting were among the techniques available to environmental policymakers, as well as greater use of maritime resources.

Dr. Osama Faqeeha appears on Frankly Speaking. (Arab News)

“Saudi Arabia has thousands of kilometers of coastline on the Arabian Gulf and the Red Sea. There are two species of native mangrove trees that grow in sea water, so we intend to focus on those species as well,” he said.

One issue that has provoked debate in the Kingdom is the traditional practice of cutting natural wood to make campfires, held responsible for some of the desertification the SGI is pledged to eliminate.

“Local people enjoy picnics and the outdoors, they like to light wood fires for family gatherings, and these are local traditions that we really cherish. However, it came at a high expense of the local vegetation.”

The new environmental law has imposed severe penalties on such practices, but Faqeeha said that there were incentives for alternatives to wood fires so that these traditions would not be affected.

The World Health Organisation has criticized Saudi Arabia and other countries in the Middle East for low standards of air quality, but Faqeeha took issue with some of the WHO findings.

“I’d like to highlight a distinction between air pollution and degraded air quality. Sometimes you have a degraded air quality not because it’s polluted by human activities. The WHO uses particulate matters as the main parameters to measure air quality,” he said.

“That’s a very good parameter for (places such as) Europe and the US, where you have extensive vegetation cover, and the main source of particulate matters are power plants, factories and other human activities. We call such particulate matters anthropogenic particulate matter or PM.

“Here in Saudi Arabia and in the region as a whole, particulate matters are dominated by natural causes, mainly coming from dust storms. Definitely air quality becomes degraded during dust storms — no one claims that it is healthy to go outdoors and inhale dusty weather.

So, that’s really what they (WHO) are referring to. It is degraded air quality because of the natural particulate matters emanating from dust storms.”

The ministry was working on comprehensive measure to reduce dust storms and improve air quality, Faqeeha said.

At the COP26 climate change summit in Glasgow last year, some experts warned that Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries would suffer more than other parts of the world from the health effects of global warming, including extreme heat, diseases and air pollution.

Faqeeha acknowledged this was an issue that policymakers were confronting. “Definitely, climate change and global warming is a major global challenge that we are taking very seriously.

“In terms of the outlook for temperature, there are very few studies. In the entire region we don’t have a climate center for climate studies and that’s why the Crown Prince announced the creation of the Regional Center for Climate Studies here, which will be championed by the National Center for Meteorology in Saudi Arabia. Its job is to do national and regional studies on the mid- and long-term outlook for climate change,” he said.

One big focus of Saudi environmental strategy, he added, is the push to reverse the trend to land degradation and desertification, a major contributor to the generation of polluting greenhouse gas emissions that costs around trillions of dollars globally.

“Land degradation is the second largest contributor of greenhouse gases. In fact, land degradation is the cause of about more than 50 percent of biodiversity loss, which is a large contribution. Also, it has a huge impact on agricultural lands and food security,” Faqeeha said.

Measures to reverse land degradation were a major achievement of the G20 summit under Saudi Arabia’s presidency in 2020.

Faqeeha also outlined the Kingdom’s new strategy toward waste management, which he views as an area ripe for private sector involvement and foreign investment.

“Private sector participation is an important enabler to achieve the objectives of the national environmental strategy,” he said.

“We have many international companies that are coming, who feel the regulatory environment now is highly conducive to their participation.”


Saudi Arabia spends $991m on water projects in Jazan area

Saudi Arabia spends $991m on water projects in Jazan area
Updated 23 January 2022

Saudi Arabia spends $991m on water projects in Jazan area

Saudi Arabia spends $991m on water projects in Jazan area

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Environment, Water, and Agriculture, known as MEWA, launched on Sunday 20 water and environmental projects to provide sustainability in the southwest of Saudi Arabia, set to cost a total of SR3.6 billion ($991 million). 

The Ministry, in participation with the Emirate of Jazan Province inaugurated four water projects costing over SR2.5 billion, to produce desalinated water in Jazan.

Five further water projects costing more than SR709 million were also initiated to expand water transmission systems. Seven projects for water and environmental services costing SR346 million were initiated to expand distribution.

The inauguration involved four projects costing more than SR70 million, to enhance water resources, serving more than 1.3 million beneficiaries in the region.

 


Saudi Industrial Development Fund to provide new financing products worth $3bn this year

Saudi Industrial Development Fund to provide new financing products worth $3bn this year
Updated 23 January 2022

Saudi Industrial Development Fund to provide new financing products worth $3bn this year

Saudi Industrial Development Fund to provide new financing products worth $3bn this year

RIYADH: The Saudi Industrial Development Fund will launch and update new financing products to serve new sectors during the current year, at a value ranging between SR10 billion to SR11 billion ($2.6 billion to $3 billion).

The Fund's spokesperson Khalil Al-Nimri told Alarabiya it will be targeting four sectors, with the Supply Chain Finance program being one of the programs to be updated. Alarabiya didn't name the sectors.

This comes as the fund seeks to boost private sector investment in targeted sectors and appeal to a large number of investors. 

So far, the Saudi Industrial Development Fund has approved the financing of more than 100 projects in the mining sector, amounting to a total of SR28 billion, Al-Nimri said.  


Saudi Eastern Province closes $40m deal to improve its public transport network

Saudi Eastern Province closes $40m deal to improve its public transport network
Updated 23 January 2022

Saudi Eastern Province closes $40m deal to improve its public transport network

Saudi Eastern Province closes $40m deal to improve its public transport network

RIYADH: Riyadh-based Saudi Public Transport Co., also known as SAPTCO, has sealed a SR150 million ($40 million) deal for a public bus transport project in the Eastern Province’s Dammam and Al Qatif governorate.

The contract, signed with the Eastern Province Municipality, will be valid for five years, the homegrown transport firm said in a bourse statement.

The Transport General Authority partnered with the Eastern Municipality to supply the project with eight lanes over a distance of 453 kilometers, 212 stops, and 85 buses, SPA reported, citing the authority’s president Rumaih Al Rumaih.

From reducing the effects of environmental pollution to rationalizing energy consumption, the project comes in line with Saudi Vision 2030.

Upon its completion, the region is expected to see less traffic congestion and more organized transportation systems, SPA reported.

SAPTCO noted that the deal’s financial impact is expected to reflect on the company’s financial statements during the first half of the ongoing year.


UAE’s DEWA launches 16 power transmission stations totalling $816m last year

UAE’s DEWA launches 16 power transmission stations totalling $816m last year
Updated 23 January 2022

UAE’s DEWA launches 16 power transmission stations totalling $816m last year

UAE’s DEWA launches 16 power transmission stations totalling $816m last year

RIYADH: Dubai Electricity and Water Authority, known as DEWA, has inaugurated 16 new electricity transmission stations in 2021, at a total cost of 3 billion dirhams ($816 million).

These include fourteen 132kV stations with a transmission capacity of 2,100 megavolt-amperes, and two 400kV transmission stations with a conversion capacity of 4,000 megavolt-amperes in the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park and Al Quoz 2. 

This brings the total value of DEWA’s investments in electricity transmission to 9.5 billion dirhams, CEO & MD of the authority, Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer, said.

The inauguration of the substations comes as part of DEWA’s efforts to increase the capacity, efficiency, and readiness of electricity transmission networks in Dubai, he added.