Saudi Arabia plans to auction two major mining licenses in 2022 as the world’s biggest oil exporter seeks foreign investments into a sector that has $1.3 trillion in untapped potential reserve value, the vice-minister for mining affairs told S&P Global Platts.
“We are planning for two major auctions of licenses next year for commodities including gold, copper and zinc,” Khalid al-Mudaifer said on the sidelines of the GPCA (Gulf Petrochemicals and Chemicals Association) Leaders Forum in Dubai. Saudi Arabia also has also major resources of phosphate, tantalum, niobium and nickel, he added.
Saudi aims to increase international investment in mining, particularly because demand for minerals around the world is growing fast. According to geological surveys dating back 80 years, the kingdom has an estimated reserve of untapped mining potential valued at $1.3 trillion.
Saudi Arabia’s mining industry has already attracted some major foreign investors. Alcoa Corp. has a 25.1% stake in two companies, Ma’aden Bauxite and Alumina Co. and Ma’aden Aluminium Co., as part of $10.8 billion joint venture with Saudi miner Ma’aden located in Ras al-Khair Industrial City in the eastern province.
Fertilizer producer The Mosaic Co. has a 25% stake in the $8 billion Ma’aden Wa’ad Al Shamal Fertilizer Production Complex located in Wa’ad Al Shamal Minerals Industrial City in the northern province of Saud Arabia. Barrick Gold Corp. has a 50% stake with Ma’aden in the Jabal Sayid underground Copper Mine and Plant.
A new mining law, which came into force on Jan. 1, 2021, will help attract foreign investors because it treats them equally with local ones. Some $45 billion in private and public sector investments have gone into the mining sector over the last decade, mainly in phosphate and aluminum production.
Saudi Arabia has some of the world’s largest reserves of phosphate. The country also plans to launch a comprehensive geological survey to help in mapping the country’s mining potential. This five-year survey program will conduct geophysical and geochemical surveys, and create detailed mapping of more than 700,000 sq km of the mineral-rich Arabian Shield area in Saudi Arabia.