Saudi Arabia’s King Salman will on Thursday inaugurate the Waad Al Shamaal project, a 440-square-kilometre city for mining industries in the country’s northern region, Al Arabiya TV said, quoting energy minister Khalid Al Falih.
The project will cost 85 billion riyals (US$22.7bn) and create 10,000 jobs, Mr Falih said. It is part of an industrial scheme aimed at opening up the north of the kingdom to development that will boost job creation.
Mining is key to Saudi Arabia’s reform plan to diversify its economy from hydrocarbons, as the government aims to more than triple this sector’s contribution to the nation’s economic output by 2030.
Saudi authorities estimate the region holds 500 million tonnes of phosphate ore, about 7 per cent of global proven reserves, mainly in the Al Jalamid and Umm Wu’al areas between Arar and Turaif.
The energy ministry estimates the kingdom’s unused mineral resources to be valued at 5 trillion riyals.
Saudi Arabia’s efforts to build an economy that does not rely on oil and state subsidies involves a shift towards mining vast untapped reserves of bauxite, the main source of aluminium, as well as phosphate, gold, copper and uranium.
Al Arabiya quoted Mr Al Falih as saying the mining sector would be open to foreign investment after introducing a new law, without giving details.
Currently, Saudi Ma’aden is the kingdom’s sole miner, producing gold and copper and has in recent years expanded into the production of aluminium and phosphates. It is 65 per cent owned by the kingdom’s Public Investment Fund.
Ma’aden, which is also the Gulf’s largest miner, was developing its third project to manufacture phosphate fertilisers at its Waad Al Shamal facility at an estimated cost of 24 billion riyals.