Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Fahd Bin Abdul Aziz today presided over the regular weekly meeting of the Council of Ministers. During the meeting a royal decree was announced prohibiting exploitation of silica rocks and sand, rare materials found in the Kingdom and used for construction and industrial purposes, except by those who are currently in possession of licenses. Moreover, these current users will forfeit the opportunity to renew these licenses, and the raw materials will in future be exploited exclusively by the Ministry of Industry and Electricity.
King Fahd opened the meeting by expressing deep grief at the sad demise in Taif last Thursday of Sheikh Abdulaziz Bin Abdullah Bin Baz. Sheikh Bin Baz was Grand Mufti of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Chairman of the Committee of Senior Ulema [religious scholars] and Chairman of the Department of Scientific Research and Ifta, and considered among the most prominent scholars in the Arab world. Recounting his rich life in the service of his country and his religion, King Fahd referred to his death as a great loss for the Islamic world. Replacing him as Grand Mufti, in a royal decree last Saturday, is his deputy, Sheikh Abdulaziz Bin Abdullah Al-Asheikh.
Information Minister Dr. Fouad Bin Abdulsalam Al-Farsi reported that King Fahd went on to express his satisfaction at the first biannual consultative summit meeting of the member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which was held last week in Riyadh. He praised the GCC's past and current accomplishments at all levels, attributing them to the positive impact of the members' cooperation on the peoples of the region as well as on the Arab and Islamic worlds.
Turning to the Middle East, the cabinet, reiterating its firm stance in support of the Palestinian people and their inalienable rights, welcomed the latest declaration of the European Union affirming the right of the Palestinians to self-determination, including establishing an independent state.
King Fahd then took the opportunity to welcome the current state visit to the Kingdom of President Mohammed Khatami of the Islamic Republic of Iran. He underscored the importance of such visits for enhancing cooperation for the benefit of the peoples of both countries as well as for the stability and security of the region.
Turning to domestic matters, the cabinet passed a resolution to reward any Border Guard who captures, or who provides information leading to the arrest of, drug traffickers, peddlers or users, or who confiscates the items they use to run their illegal activities. On the issue of exploitation of silica rocks and sand, the cabinet instructed the authorities concerned not to issue licenses to anyone applying for concessions in any area known to be rich in these materials, such as Al-Daghm mountain, to the east of the city of Riyadh. The decree authorized the Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources to continue to pinpoint the sites expected to contain silica rocks and sand and to locate them on geological maps, for example Abu-Ashar, Al-Jafi and Al-Armah, all to the north of Riyadh. Anyone who is in currently in possession of a license to exploit these materials will be allowed to do so until the expiry date, but there will be no renewal of such licenses. Prices for silica rocks and sand will be fixed by the relevant authorities in order to avoid market fluctuations. The order authorized the Ministries of Interior, Justice, Agriculture and Water, Petroleum and Mineral Resources, Industry and Electricity, and Municipal and Rural Affairs, and other related authorities, to implement this decision.