Deputy Prime Minister and Commander of the National Guard Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, in the address read on his behalf by undersecretary to Makkah Province Abdullah Al-Fayez to the seminar on ‘Mineral Investment Horizons and Opportunities in the Arab Countries’, highlighted Saudi efforts to boost mining investment in the Arab countries in general and Saudi Arabia in particular. The three-day seminar, which opened in Jeddah yesterday, has been organized by the Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources in cooperation with the Arab Organization for Industrial Development and Mining.
In his speech at the inaugural session yesterday, Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Ali Al-Naimi affirmed that the Arab world has mineral resources that are largely unexplored, but enough for all Arab countries to meet their needs for raw materials. The Arab world’s mining industry, he said, could attract overseas as well as domestic investors. He named Morocco, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Mauritania and Oman as having an abundance of mineral resources, as well as Saudi Arabia, which already has a number of mining operations, including mines for gold, copper, and zinc. About 15 minerals have been discovered in the Kingdom in commercial quantities. Phosphate reserves estimated at 3.1 billion tons make Saudi Arabia the largest source of this mineral.
Governor of the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) Amr Al-Dabbagh commented that new transport projects such as the expansion of the rail system would boost mining activities in the Kingdom, which, he said, is hoping to make the mining sector the "third pillar" of its economy after oil and petrochemicals. President and CEO of the Saudi Arabian Mining Company ‘Maaden’, Abdallah Dabbagh, confirmed that his company is geared to being the third most important entity in the Kingdom's industrial and economic development after Saudi Aramco and Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC). Maaden, a joint stock company with a capital of U.S. $1 billion and some $1.3 billion in assets, has mounted projects worth over $7 billion to exploit bauxite, phosphate and other industrial minerals. The company owns six gold mines, four in operation and two being developed, and is in process of consolidating its precious metals businesses prior to privatization, which is planned for late 2005 or early 2006.
In a statement on the eve of the seminar, Minister Al-Naimi said seven foreign companies had received mining licenses. He commented that although at present the mining sector contributes only two percent of Saudi Arabia’s Gross Domestic Product, employing 47,000 people, it has the potential for development, with new job opportunities and diversification of revenue. He described as a major achievement the Kingdom’s recent mining investment law, passed by the Cabinet on September 13, 2004.