SYDNEY: Saudi Arabia plans to award over a dozen mining exploration licenses to international investors as it looks to enter the mining sector in a big way to diversify away from hydrocarbons, Mining Minister Bandar Al-Khorayef said on Wednesday.
Five new exploration sites are up for licensing and the Kingdom will release details of an additional 10 opportunities next year, the minister said in a speech at the International Mining and Resources Conference in Sydney.
“Strategically located at the heart of the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Europe, with a will and infrastructure and high domestic demand for minerals and metals, Saudi Arabia can be a main contributor to the growth of the mining sector,” Al-Khorayef told miners and energy industry leaders and experts.
Riyadh’s efforts to build an economy that’s not dependent on oil include a shift toward mining, with exploration of untapped reserves of resources from copper to phosphate and gold.
More than 145 licenses have been issued so far and the country has seen a 27 percent year-on-year growth in its mining revenue, the minister said.
“We have an ambitious strategy to attract investments worth $32 billion to mining and mineral sector. So this is only the beginning,” he added.
The Saudi government estimates its unused mineral resources at $1.33 trillion, with vast quantities of aluminum, phosphate, gold, copper and uranium, Al-Khorayef said.
The Saudi mining ministry said last week that it will launch the bidding process for the licenses in Bir Umq, Jabal Idsas, Umm Hadid, Jabal Sahabiyah and Ar Ridaniyah.
Al-Khorayef said the Kingdom plans to move beyond exploration and extraction to processing and manufacturing.
“Supported by our increasing supply of competitively priced renewable energy, our ambition is to become a leading green metal refining and processing hub,” he said, adding that the country plans to invest to build a strong value chain for the rapidly growing electrical vehicles sector.
His comments came as the CEO of Saudi mining firm Al Masane Al Kobra Mining Co., known as AMAK, said he expected expects to see profits of SR45 million ($11.9 million) in the fourth quarter of 2022.
The projection comes just days after Saudi Arabian Mining Co., known as Ma’aden, reported a 71 percent jump in its net profit to reach SR2.7 billion in the third quarter of this year, over the same period a year ago.
The firm’s sales also witnessed a 50 percent rise in the third quarter to reach SR10 billion.
During the third quarter of 2022, Ma’aden started extracting gold from the Mansourah-Massarah site for the first time.
Widely touted to be Ma’aden’s largest gold project to date, the plant is expected to produce an average of 250,000 ounces per annum, which will increase the firm’s current gold mining capacity by 70 percent.
In September, during an exclusive interview with Arab News on the sidelines of the Local Content Forum, Ma’aden CEO Robert Wilt said the firm expects to contribute over SR88 billion to the Kingdom’s gross domestic product and create more than 47,000 jobs by 2040.
“The mining sector is growing. It was considered a dirty extractive industry. And now we aspire to become a role model for ESG (environmental, social and governance). We’re deploying technology that’s unheard of. We’re developing new techniques for extracting minerals which are better for the environment and decarbonizing (the) world,” said Wilt.