Saudi Deputy Minister of Industry and Mineral Resources for Mining Affairs Khalid al-Mudaifer stressed the importance of government support and international cooperation in facing the challenges of the mineral supply chains.
International reports indicate an increase in demand for minerals such as lithium, cobalt, and copper, which requires an increase in investment in mining and processing by $3 trillion by 2030, in addition to the need to provide between 300 and 500 additional gigawatts of energy by 2030.
Mudaifer made his remarks at a panel discussion, "Security of Critical Mineral Supply: China? The West? Saudi Arabia? Or Africa?", at the African Mining Indaba Conference 2024 held in Cape Town, South Africa.
Mudaifer said the central mining region, extending from Africa to West and Central Asia, represents about 41% of the world's countries, boasts 3.5 billion people, or 46% of the world's population. Its economy is worth $9.6 trillion, or 11% of the global economy.
He indicated that the greater region possesses the world’s largest share of mineral reserves and resources, including 89% of its platinum, 80% of its phosphate, 62% of its manganese, and 58% of its cobalt. Africa alone possesses about 30% of the world's resources.
The Deputy Minister added that to enable the region to contribute to meeting the global demand for minerals, it must face the challenges of increasing spending on exploration, as the average global expenditure on exploration is $87 per square meter, while the region's average is $35 per square meter.
It must also develop the infrastructure, such as road, railway, or port network, build the necessary logistics corridors to achieve supply chain flexibility and invest in energy and water to supply mining projects.
Mudaifer asserted that governments must help reduce the risks associated with these challenges and solve them.
He explained that governments must work to reduce investment risks in the sector by developing the legislative structure and regulations, especially since the implementation period for long-term minerals and mining projects may reach 7 to 9 years from exploration to production.
According to Mudaifer, conducting geological surveys would provide the necessary data for exploration projects, offer incentives, and establish regional centers to support exchanging knowledge, research, and development.
Saudi Arabia aims to become a regional hub for processing minerals and providing services to them, said Mudaifer, adding that the Kingdom enjoys a strategic location linking three continents, has a world-class infrastructure with three industrial cities dedicated to metallurgical industries, and is first in global road connectivity.
Regarding financial incentives, the Saudi Industrial Development Fund (SIDF) provides up to 75% of loans for industrial and mining projects.
Mudaifer stressed that the Kingdom has everything it needs to be a mineral processing hub and an engine for developing the mining sector in the greater region.
Saudi Arabia is ready to share its knowledge and capabilities with Africa and work together to build a prominent position for the greater region on the global stage, stressed Mudaifer, noting that Africa is critical to global supply chains and the energy transition.