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Saudi Minister of Industry: We Have Identified 50 Mining Sites to Offer to Investors

Saudi Minister of Industry: We Have Identified 50 Mining Sites to Offer to Investors

Wednesday, 29 June, 2022 - 11:30
Saudi Minister of Industry and Mineral Resources Bandar Al-Khorayef (Asharq Al-Awsat)

Saudi Minister of Industry and Mineral Resources Bandar Al-Khorayef said that the Kingdom has identified 50 sites that are believed to contain minerals in commercial quantities. Those would be offered to investors, he noted, revealing that Saudi Arabia’s mining capabilities exceeded USD1.3 trillion.

In an interview with the editorial board of Asharq Al-Awsat in London, Al-Khorayef stated that the mining system in Saudi Arabia focused on the principles of dealing with the environment, society and governance, and on linking the industry with mining.

The minister also spoke about the national strategy for industry and investment in medicines and vaccines, saying that it would see the light soon.

He stated that the national strategy first began with the launching of the National Industrial Development and Logistics Program (NDLP). But after separating the ministry from the Ministry of Energy, the strategy was reviewed to better fit the targeted sectors as well as the existing capabilities.

He continued: “The NDLP program was approved and launched in 2019, but the sectoral strategies were amended and reviewed more than once due to the changes that occurred in the different directions. The program is currently under final review and will be approved soon.”

Al-Khorayef added that the industrial strategy has identified about 30 policies that need to be modified, with the aim to help the sectors, such as the local content, to grow and develop.

Asked about the Saudi investment in the mining sector, the minister said that the Kingdom had great mining capabilities.

“Our very conservative estimates point to 5 trilion riyals (USD1.3 trillion),” he revealed.

Al-Khorayef added that the ministry launched a database on the outcome of 80 years of information, in addition to a geological survey program that is worth about 2 billion riyals.

“This program covers a third of the area of the Kingdom and the entire surface of the Arabian Shield, which is rich in minerals,” he underlined.

“In fact, we have identified 50 sites that we believe contain minerals in commercial quantities,” noting that those sites would be offered to investors.

On whether the educational sector supported the Kingdom’s mining industry, Al-Khorayef said that King Abdulaziz University had a Faculty of Earth Sciences, adding that work was in progress to update the existing curriculum and adapt it to the sector’s practical needs.

“Today, the trend towards mining opens opportunities for universities. We have currently identified two universities, King Fahd University and King Abdulaziz University, because they have previous experience. We are also in contact with international universities in the field of mining to bring some expertise,” he emphasized.

Asked about the minerals that are mostly present in Saudi Arabia, the minister said: “They are 4 minerals: phosphates… zinc, copper and gold. Our gold production, for example, is expected to double by 2030 to more than one million ounces. We have great conviction that the results of the geological survey would give us amounts of minerals that are greater than we had expected.”

Regarding investments in the medicine production sector, Al-Khorayef told Asharq Al-Awsat that Saudi Arabia was keen on localizing the industries of vaccines and vital medicines. He pointed to a decision by the Saudi Council of Ministers to form a committee headed by the Minister of Industry and the membership of the Minister of Health and Finance, the President of the Public Investment Fund, and the President of the Food and Drug Authority to manage the file of the biopharmaceutical and vaccine industries.

“We have a team working to manage this file and we have started communicating with some interested companies… It’s within the strategy; we put it on a fast track as the Covid-19 pandemic has changed a lot of priorities,” he stated.

On how Saudi Arabia would invest its international partnerships and Vision 2030 to contribute to the growth and stability of friendly countries, the minister emphasized that the Kingdom assumed a very important and essential role in this regard.

“Let me give some examples, such as medicines and vital vaccines. All the suggestions were not only for the Kingdom because the volume of demand in it is limited. The plan was for the Kingdom to be the center, whether by contributing with donations and other support. The King Salman Center for Relief and Humanitarian Action was one of the members of the committees which has an important role in this field,” he explained.

Al-Khorayef noted that that Saudi Arabia was working on updating a specialized strategy for Halal products, especially that the country is qualified to be a center for halal industries, certificates and technology.

He said: “Our export strategy targets many countries that will be important markets for us… We hope that the turmoil in many neighboring countries will end, because the Iraqi market is very important, Yemen and its reconstruction will be crucial, and Syria as well, while Africa is thirsty.”

Touching on the Made in Saudi program, Al-Khorayef noted: “We now have more than 4,000 factories and there are 6,000 factories on the way. I believe that all of our factories will have the mark of Made in Saudi Arabia, because this is something that serves the sector in general.”

Asked about climate challenges, the Saudi official underlined that the Kingdom was “one of the top countries to take the issue seriously.”

He noted that the country had a clear plan and supported the gradual transition to environment-friendly solutions.

“This file is led by the Ministry of Energy and they are doing an excellent job,” he stated.

On the ongoing Gulf-British negotiations on free trade, Al-Khorayef said: “These negotiations take a long time. What’s most important is that the two blocs agree on the broad lines… It should be a win-win situation for both sides.”

But the minister added that any free trade agreement in the industrial sector “must serve our industries and their access to the outside, and not limit our ability to manufacture in the future.”

He continued: “The Kingdom will be an important destination for building distribution capabilities. Following the Covid-19 crisis, Saudi Arabia will be one of the top options on the list for many international companies to distribute their production around the regions of the world. There is no doubt that government support for these companies is at least morally important.”

Asked about his visit to London as part of the preparation for next year’s minerals conference in Saudi Arabia, Al-Khorayef said: “Within the strategic plan, we noticed that our region is not served in terms of conferences and events that bring all investors together. Among our strategy was the establishment of an annual conference under the title The Future of Minerals.”

He noted that the first edition of the conference was hosted in Riyadh in January and covered the region of Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia.

“These regions contain huge amounts of minerals, but they also include countries that have many problems and challenges,” he said. “We aim to bring together all stakeholders from governments, large mining companies and financial companies… to discuss challenges, opportunities and solutions,” he underlined.

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