A Saudi Vision of Mineral and Energy Transition

A Reading of Outcomes of 2nd International Mining Conference
Part of the activities during the second edition of the International Mining Conference, which was held under the auspices of King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud on January 10 -12, 2023 in the Saudi capital of Riyadh. Credit: SPA
Minister of Industry and Mineral Resources, Bandar bin Ibrahim Al-Khorayef during his speech in the second edition of the International Mining Conference, which was held under the auspices of King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud during the period of January 10 -12, 2023 in the Saudi capital of Riyadh. Credit: SPA
Part of the activities during the second edition of the International Mining Conference, which was held under the auspices of King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud on January 10 -12, 2023 in the Saudi capital of Riyadh. Credit: SPA

Saudi Minister of Industry and Mineral Resources, Bandar bin Ibrahim Al-Khorayef, announced the conclusion of the sessions and activities of the second edition of the International Mining Conference, which was held under the auspices of King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud during the period of January 10 -12, 2023 in the capital of Riyadh. 

The minister said that the success of the conference represents the main pillar in starting preparations for the third edition of this conference, in an effort to become "an international platform for cooperation and the sharing of ideas to develop the mining sector and meet its future changes." 

The success of the conference is reflected in the ideas, suggestions and discussions presented by all participants from inside and outside the Kingdom. This necessitates moving forward in the development of the mining sector based on a strong foundation, including the continuation of dialogue and the strengthening of cooperation between various countries in this field. 

Accordingly, this report sheds light on the conference’s broad participation and many events, as well as its visions and proposals, through two axes.

Mining in the second edition of the International Mining Conference: Participation and understandings

In one of the most important activities that seek to build partnerships in the coming days, the Saudi initiative to hold the second International Mining Conference comes to complement what this conference witnessed in its first edition in laying down understanding and practical foundations.  This is aimed at reaching a consensual vision regarding enhancing opportunities for joint cooperation and mutual coordination in meeting the growing industrial needs, especially with regard to the needs of renewable energy as an alternative to fossil energies.  This in turn drives an increase in the present and future demand for minerals in the world, especially for what are known as “strategic” or “influential” minerals.

In this regard, Saudi Arabia stands out as a major player due to its great capabilities in the mining sector, on the one hand, and what it possesses as a geostrategic geographical location in the middle of that distinct mining region that extends from Africa to Central and West Asia, on the other hand.

That gives it - with its mining experience and expertise - a leading role to develop the capabilities of this region. Hence, the Saudi initiative in launching this annual international conference has acquired an important distinction, with the aim of reaching a comprehensive strategy to maximize the utilization of minerals affecting the field of energy transition, which is expected to increase in importance in the future.

This forum is a comprehensive international platform that provides an opportunity for investors, mining companies and other parties concerned with the global mining sector to meet and learn about everything that interests them regarding the potential and opportunities of the mining sector in the emerging mining region.  The participants also discuss how to build a sustainable mining industry, and to see the enormous geological potential of the targeted areas.

In light of the importance of this conference, it attracted a broad participation by many ministers, ambassadors and senior officials, in addition to 200 speakers and more than 12,000 participants including investment leaders, heads of major mining companies, experts and technical specialists in this field, representatives of financial institutions and service providers, as well as manufacturers from 130 countries. 

Their discussion sessions varied as they addressed many topics, including the future of the mining sector, its contributions to the development of societies, the promotion of sustainable and clean energy systems, and attracting direct investments to the mining sector in the region.

This comes in addition to increasing the region's contribution to the value and supply chains of strategic minerals and developing the region into an integrated center for the production of green minerals.  Another topic was the role of modern technology and the use of artificial intelligence in conducting exploration and mining operations. 

These discussions took place through the holding of more than 30 workshops, covering all these subjects. This is in addition to organizing a forum for mining exploration opportunities, with the participation of major international companies in the field of mineral exploration along with national investment companies interested in the mining sector.

This comes with the aim of supporting the establishment of strategic alliances between local and international companies, and developing a competitive environment in the sector, as well as transferring the best technical expertise and stimulating opportunities for the discovery of new mines in the Kingdom. 

During the forum, details of six mining opportunities in the Kingdom for exploration were presented in front of international and local investors, which were previously announced under the umbrella of the "Accelerated Exploration Program" initiative and the National Industry Development and Logistics Program (NDLP). 

The matter was not limited to sessions between international and local investment companies only, but the conference witnessed the holding of the second ministerial round table meeting with the participation of 62 countries represented by a number of ministers and high-level officials, and in the presence of 21 international organizations and institutions interested in the sector.

Among the most important results of this conference was also the signing of 60 agreements and memoranda of understanding in the field of the mining and minerals industry between a number of government agencies, companies and institutions participating in the conference. 

These agreements and memoranda of understanding included the areas of mineral exploration, technology, communications, application of sustainability standards, localization and qualification, and industrialization in the mining sector. The conference also witnessed the granting of two exploration licenses for the Khniqiyeh and Umm Al-Dummar sites to the winning companies.

In an effort to maximize the output of this conference, three exhibitions were organized on its sidelines. The first was an exhibition of the latest current and future mining technologies. The second was external exhibitions for sponsors and participating companies. The third was an exhibition of investment opportunities in the regions of Africa and West and Central Asia, as they are promising mining regions that will be able to contribute to bridging the gaps in future demand for minerals.

Minerals and Energy Transformation: Kingdom Vision 2030

In a world facing many challenges and crises in various fields and at all levels, the ability of countries to deal with the repercussions of these challenges and crises depends on their ability to satisfy their needs for basic and necessary strategic resources.  The purpose is to ensure the full operation of their economic capabilities in order to meet the needs of their citizens, and energy remains the most prominent in ensuring the full operation of those capabilities. 

If it is true that fossil resources (coal, oil and gas) have been of great importance in operating national economies over the past centuries since the discovery of the uses of these resources, it is also true that there are challenges, whether those related to access to new discoveries of these resources, especially oil and gas, or those related to the difficulty of using them as a source of energy in light of the climate change facing the world that has ravaged many well-established environmental systems in various fields.  Climate change has left its effect on the various conditions of life of countries and societies, and threatened many of them with annihilation or at least disintegration due to conflicts and wars in the exploitation of resources. 

These challenges were imposed on everyone searching for real alternatives to energy resources capable of meeting their growing needs, on the one hand, and preserving the environment and the right of future generations to development which is sustainable, on the other hand.  This has created a state of global consensus on the importance of energy transition from fossil energy to new and renewable energy. 

This will come from relying on environment-friendly energy sources, which was found to be echoed in the field of dependence on minerals in general, and “strategic minerals” and “influential minerals” in particular.  This ensures maximizing the utilization of energies such as wind energy, solar energy, the production of electric cars, and the construction of renewable energy generation and storage projects, which in turn means an increasing demand for these types of strategic minerals.

In this regard, it is worth noting a study issued by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., which indicated that the International Energy Agency has expectations that the shift from hydrocarbon energy to sustainable energies will have an impact on the volume of the consumption of minerals affecting sustainable energy products.  These are six in number, the availability of which will diminish by 2050.  Among the most prominent of these metals is cobalt and lithium, but an imbalance in supply and demand for these minerals expected to occur by the end of this decade (2030).

It goes without saying that the Kingdom was not absent from all these developments, but rather paid clear attention to the role of minerals and their future in the field of renewable energy, with the launch of its development vision known as Kingdom Vision 2030, in which the mining sector represented one of the main pillars for the development of non-oil revenues, and for contribution to the gross national product (GNP).

This is the third pillar of the industry, along with the oil and petrochemical industries, as the Vision has set ambitious targets to raise the contribution of this sector to the GNP from $17 billion to $64 billion by 2030. 

This comes due to the reserves that the Kingdom enjoys which are an abundant and diversified mining potential with a value of about $1.3 trillion. It includes phosphate and bauxite minerals in the northeast, and gold, copper and rare earth deposits in the west of the Kingdom.

In order to reach these goals, many serious steps and executive measures have been taken, most notably: the start of the new mining investment system; the launch of the electronic "Ta'deen" platform to provide geological data; facilitating the procedures for issuing mining licenses; launching the national database for earth sciences; and, starting to implement the general geological survey project, which covers 600,000 square kilometers.

This comes in addition to launching the Accelerated Exploration Initiative to conduct surveys, evaluate strategic mineral sites, explore and develop promising mineral areas, and establish a mining services company with the aim of improving the services provided to the sector, thereby enhancing its competitiveness and achieving compliance with sustainability requirements. 

These measures have resulted in many achievements whether at the level of increasing the number of mining licenses, (as it reached 1967 licenses for reconnaissance, detection and exploitation of various mineral ores, 25% of which were issued during the year 2021), or at the level of reserved complexes and mineral reserve areas, which amounted to 431 sites.

In conclusion, the mining conference in its second edition represents one of the most important global initiatives in the field of searching for solutions to the clear challenges facing the world in the areas of advanced industry and the goals of transition towards clean energy and zero carbon.

This comes as the global demand for minerals, especially strategic ones, is growing, which in turn needs venues for the discussion and exchange of ideas, and putting forward visions and proposals not only among officials, but together with the participation of all parties, including governments, investors, financial institutions, service providers and manufacturers.

This is provided by the international conference as a platform for joint cooperation aimed at drawing a future roadmap for minerals, investing them and maximizing their returns locally, regionally and globally.


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