Two auctions for copper mining licences are set to take place by the end of this year, according to the Saudi Vice Minister for Mining Affairs.
“We have two other copper auctions coming up at the end of the year and then, hopefully, this will attract attention and work. We will do more in the same model or a different model of bringing licences to be auctioned,” Khalid Almudaifer told Arab News in an interview.
This will follow the licensing tender of the mineral-rich Al-Khunayqiyah site in southern Riyadh, which he hopes will satisfy Saudi needs of zinc and even export some of it abroad.
Talking about the Kingdom’s mining sector, Almudaifer said: “It’s all there, so we’re starting from a blank canvas, yes, but we’re starting from a strong pavement that has been built over the last five years.”
The vice minister was optimistic, saying the infrastructure for the mining sector has been established, allowing the Kingdom to “leapfrog not in mining [only] but in sustainable mining” as well. He described the Saudi mining law as one of the best in the world.
When asked about Saudi Arabia’s mining potential, the vice minister said the $1.3 trillion estimate of untapped mineral wealth was just a start point, indicating the actual value of underground minerals could be far more than that.
“These are 2017-prices estimates and this is what is known at the time due to exploration from 1960 to 1997. It is not all that we have.”
In addition, the Kingdom wants to contribute more in the value chain, the vice minister said, using bauxite – which is the basis for aluminum — as an example.
The estimated value of bauxite was around $40 billion only, out of the $1.3 trillion appraisal. However, following an investment that was poured into the mineral’s value chain, the estimated value skyrocketed to $400 billion.
This was because they started selling aluminum sheets – instead of bauxite – which are in demand for electric vehicles manufacturing.
The former CEO of Ma’aden also said the Arabian Shield – situated in the western side of Saudi Arabia – is on par with the Canadian Shield and the Australian Shield, adding that it offers multiple mining opportunities in many minerals, including gold, zinc, copper and lead.
Almudaifer also said that Saudi Arabia furnishes investors with security of tenure, predictability and accountability.