As a first step toward privatization, the Saudi Arabian Mining Company ‘Ma'aden’ plans to set up a unit to study and evaluate the precious and base metals sector starting January 1, 2005. The Supreme Economic Council (SEC) on May 19 approved the privatization of Ma'aden, currently wholly owned by the Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources, into four strategic units: precious and base metals; phosphates; bauxite and aluminum; and industrial minerals. The proposed unit’s first task will be to assess gold mining to determine to what extent privatization can be achieved.
Ma'aden hopes to become a profitable, diversified mining company for the exploration, development and extraction of minerals within the Kingdom. It has operational gold mines at Mahd Ad-Dahab, Sukhaybarat, Bulghah and Al-Hajar, which last year produced 282,000 ounces; gold mines at Al-Ammar and Ad-Duwayah will start operation next year, and Ma'aden geologists are currently reviewing a number of other deposits of base metals in addition to gold.