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ARIAD: When Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 initiative in 2016, skeptics questioned how a country dependent on oil for decades could successfully diversify its economy.

Now, seven years later, the Kingdom has successfully entered a new universe of possibilities. The mining sector in particular appears to be one of the Kingdom’s growth poles.

It is in this spirit that the Future Minerals Forum, which concluded in Riyadh on January 12, highlighted the Kingdom’s ambitions in the mining sector and the emergence of the mineral exploration industry as the third pillar of the country’s economy.

Ministers, industry experts and think tank representatives came together to discuss solutions to the sector’s challenges, including the crucial factor of sustainability.

International involvement to attract more investment to Saudi Arabia

The participation of more than 200 speakers from all over the world proves that the kingdom is on the right track, especially after the new mining law has improved the business environment in Saudi Arabia, easing the procedure for issuing mining permits.

Paul Sullivan, senior lecturer at Johns Hopkins University and senior fellow in the Department of Energy and Environmental Security at the King Fassal Center for Research and Islamic Studies. Arabic News The unprecedented international presence at the forum is expected to boost investment in the Kingdom’s mining sector.

“The upcoming Minerals Forum can act as a catalyst for increased investment in mining in Saudi Arabia. We hope that it can also help to create more effective legal and regulatory structures in the country. But such things take time. “Saudi Arabia’s potential in terms of mining is huge,” says Sullivan.

On January 11, on the second day of the Forum, the Minister of Investment of Saudi Arabia, Khalid al-Falih, explained that Saudi Arabia has become an ideal place for companies that want to do business in the mining sector.

“Saudi Arabia has gathered all the necessary catalysts in the mining sector. We have the best energy solution, location, financing and regulations in the world,” says Al-Falih.

During the 2023 edition of the Future Minerals Forum, Saudi Arabian Mining Co., also known as Maaden, signed an agreement with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund to invest in mining around the world. (Saudi Press Agency)

To better demonstrate the growing international reach of the Kingdom’s mining ambitions, Saudi Arabian Mining Co., known as Maaden, signed an agreement with the Saudi Public Investment Fund during the FMF to invest in mining globally.

The largest mining company in the Gulf region also announced that it has signed an agreement to acquire a 9.9% stake in Ivanhoe Electric, a US mineral exploration and development company, and to form a separate joint venture with Ivanhoe to explore and develop mining projects in Saudi Arabia. Arabia.

Maaden has signed another partnership agreement with Barrick Gold Limited, a subsidiary of Canada’s Barrick Gold Corp group. As part of this agreement, a new limited liability company will be established in Umm Ad Damar to accelerate mining exploration activities in the Kingdom.

Sustainability in the mining sector

While critical minerals are needed for a smooth transition to green energy, there are concerns about the environmental impact of mining.

“Saudi Arabia can be more sustainable and clean in many areas, not just mining. Environmental and sustainability laws and regulations are important. Industries and mining will be a source of significant externalities, such as water, land and air pollution, without such regulations,” Sullivan said. Arabic News.

He adds: “Saudi Arabia can benefit the most from a thriving and growing mining industry that minimizes externalities such as pollution. This is good publicity that will benefit the Saudi people and their future.”

Mr. Sullivan further noted that mining laws and regulations must be implemented in a manner that protects the interests of the general public.

“There are complex balances to consider. The development of regulations and laws must also reflect the needs of the Saudi people, their leaders and future Saudis, as well as companies to enable sustainable, long-term and efficient mining to build the country’s future wealth. Sullivan continues.

The Future Minerals Forum, which concluded in Riyadh on January 12, highlighted the Kingdom’s ambitions in the mining sector and the transformation of the mineral exploration industry into the country’s third pillar of the economy.

At the forum, industry leaders and senior officials discussed the importance of sustainability. Australian miner BHP CEO Mike Henry says exploration of critical minerals must be accelerated to meet energy transition goals over the next 30 years, as increased demand cannot be met if the world changes at its current pace.

“Over the next three decades, the world will need twice as much copper, four times as much nickel, twice as much steel, and twice as much iron ore as it did in the past to meet the demands of the energy transition.” for thirty years,” he says.

In a separate roundtable, Souleiman al-Mazroua, director general of Saudi Arabia’s National Industrial and Logistics Development Program, notes that the Kingdom is not only trying to accelerate mining operations to catalyze the energy transition, but is also working on innovative practices to build sustainable operations. in the mining sector.

“Saudi Arabia is on both the supply and demand side. We are developing the innovation space to achieve sustainability and at the same time supply more metals to the world,” asserts Al-Mazroua.

Be advanced and superior

The forum also exchanged information on innovative ideas that could reshape the mining industry.

Abdallah Ibrahim al-Abdel-Karim, governor of Saline Water Conversion Corp, said in a panel discussion that the mining industry must have a different structure to move forward as the world faces rapid changes in the era of energy transition, digitalization and climate change.

Mr Al-Abdel-Karim also notes that new mining companies will be able to find abundant resources from seawater if they have a “structure based on science, re-engineering and economics”.

“By finding the means to extract valuable salts and minerals from brine, we will be able to guarantee demand for the future,” he said.

As the Saudi mining sector continues its accelerated growth, those responsible for its growth are keen to show that speed will not come at the expense of sustainability.

This text is a translation of an article published on Arabnews.com

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