Saudi Minister of Industry and Mineral Resources Bandar Al-Khorayef said the Kingdom had identified 50 sites that would contain minerals in commercial quantities. These would be offered to investors, he noted, revealing that Saudi Arabia’s mining capacity exceeded $1.3 trillion.
In an interview with the editorial board of Asharq Al-Awsat in London, Al-Khorayef said that the mining system in Saudi Arabia focuses on the principles of environmental, social and governance management, and on the link between industry and mining.
The minister also spoke about the national strategy for industry and investment in medicines and vaccines, saying that it would soon see the light of day.
He said the national strategy started with the launch of the National Industrial and Logistics Development Program (NDLP). But after separating the Ministry from the Ministry of Energy, the strategy was revised to better fit the targeted sectors as well as existing capacities.
He continued, “The NDLP program was approved and launched in 2019, but the sector strategies have been modified and reviewed more than once due to changes in the different directions. The program is currently undergoing final review and will soon be approved.
Al-Khorayef added that the industrial strategy identified around 30 policies that need to be changed, with the aim of helping sectors, such as local content, grow and develop.
Asked about Saudi investments in the mining sector, the minister said that the Kingdom has large mining capacities.
“Our very conservative estimates point to 5 trillion riyals ($1.3 trillion),” he revealed.
Al-Khorayef added that the ministry has launched a database of the results of 80 years of information, in addition to a geological prospecting program worth around 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 said.
“In fact, we have identified 50 sites that we believe contain minerals in commercial quantities,” noting that these sites would be offered to investors.
As to whether the education sector supports the Kingdom’s mining industry, Al-Khorayef said that King Abdulaziz University has a faculty of earth sciences, adding that work is underway to update the existing program and adapt it to the practical needs of the sector.
“Today’s mining trend opens up opportunities for universities. We have currently identified two universities, King Fahd University and King Abdulaziz University, as they have previous experience. We are also in contact with international universities in the mining field to provide some expertise,” he said.
Asked about the minerals mainly present in Saudi Arabia, the Minister declared: “These are 4 minerals: phosphates…zinc, copper and gold. Our gold production, for example, is expected to double by 2030 to over one million ounces. We are convinced that the results of the geological study would give us higher quantities of minerals than we had anticipated. »
Regarding investments in the medicine production sector, Al-Khorayef told Asharq Al-Awsat that Saudi Arabia is keen on localizing the vaccine and life-saving medicine industries. He highlighted the decision of the Saudi Council of Ministers to form a committee headed by the Minister of Industry and composed of the Minister of Health and Finance, the Chairman of the Public Investment Fund and the Chairman 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 to communicate with certain interested companies… It’s in the strategy; we put it on a fast track because the Covid-19 pandemic changed a lot of priorities,” he said.
On how Saudi Arabia will invest its international partnerships and its Vision 2030 to contribute to the growth and stability of friendly countries, the Minister stressed that the Kingdom has a very important and essential role in this regard.
“Let me give a few examples, such as life-saving drugs and vaccines. Not all suggestions were just for the Kingdom as the volume of demand there is limited. The plan was for the Kingdom to be the center, whether contributing with donations and other support. The King Salman Center for Relief and Humanitarian Action was one of the committee members that has an important role in this,” he explained.
Al-Khorayef noted that Saudi Arabia is 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 unrest in many neighboring countries will end, because the Iraqi market is very important, Yemen and its reconstruction will be crucial. , and Syria too. , while Africa is thirsty.
Addressing the Made in Saudi program, Al-Khorayef noted, “We now have over 4,000 factories and there are 6,000 factories on the way. I believe that all of our factories will have the Made in Saudi Arabia mark, as it is something that serves the sector in general.
Asked about climate challenges, the Saudi official stressed that the Kingdom was “one of the best countries to take the issue seriously”.
He noted that the country had a clear plan and supported the gradual transition to environmentally friendly solutions.
“This file is led by the Department of Energy and they are doing a great job,” he said.
On the ongoing negotiations between the Gulf and Britain on free trade, Al-Khorayef said: “These negotiations are taking a long time. What is most important is that the two blocs agree on the main lines… It should be a win-win situation for both parties.
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 capacity. Following the Covid-19 crisis, Saudi Arabia will be one of the best options on the list for many international companies to distribute their production in 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 in preparation for next year’s minerals conference in Saudi Arabia, Al-Khorayef said: “As part of the strategic plan, we have noticed that our region is not not served in terms of conferences and events that bring together all investors. . Among our strategies was the establishment of an annual conference under the title The Future of Minerals.
He noted that the first edition of the conference was held 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. “Our goal is to bring together all stakeholders from governments, large mining companies and financial companies… to discuss challenges, opportunities and solutions,” he stressed.