The final frontier – Future Minerals Forum day two round-up

Delegates returned to the King Abdul Aziz International Conference Center in droves on Thursday for a final day of information sharing, relationship building and deal making in the temperate January climate in Riyadh.

After being blown away by the volume of attendees on day one of Future Minerals Forum, RGN couldn’t wait to sample the mood on day two. It didn’t disappoint either as the venue buzzed with activity, from Saudi ministers strolling around the exhibition floor to private conversations in meeting rooms between investors and mining corporates.

Below is RGN’s quick round-up of the events of the day as the landmark event drew to a close against a backdrop of building excitement relating to Saudi Arabia’s role as the leader of a new mining frontier across Africa, central Asia and the Middle East.

Friedland warns of massive copper supply shortage

Robert Friedland, founder co-chairman of Ivanhoe Mines, told the audience at Future Minerals Forum that the world is facing up to a serious shortage of metals required for the electric energy transition, with the EV market in particular set to place a huge strain on the supply-demand balance for copper.

“Humanity needs to find another 700 million tonnes of copper to maintain the current global economic growth trajectory, and this is without meaningful vehicle electrification,” the enigmatic mine financier said.

“We just don’t have the copper mines required for the energy transition, so the way we explore and discover deposits has to be radicalised. Africa might have the orebodies we need, but it needs a leader outside of China and the US. With its geographical setting and extractive history, Saudi Arabia can fulfil that leadership role,” he deliberated.

Xanadu CEO talks up 1 billion tonnes copper-gold target in Mongolia

One company that could go some way to plugging the looming supply gap in the copper market is ASX-listed Xanadu Mines, which owns two globally significant copper deposits in the central Asian mining jurisdiction of Mongolia.

Last month, the company published an updated mineral resource estimate for its flagship Kharmagtai deposit, which remarkably now exceeds 1 billion tonnes including a higher grade 100 million tonnes (Mt) component.

“Khargmagtai is now the largest copper project trading on the ASX,” revealed CEO Andrew Stewart during a corporate presentation in the marketplace theatre at Future Minerals Forum. Stewart called Mongolia ‘god’s gift to explorers’, with its pro-mining government and excellent infrastructure support a host of mines, including Rio Tinto’s tier 1 Oyu Tolgoi copper-gold project.

New Saudi mining law follows international best practices, says Peter Leon

In the afternoon of day two, RGN sat down with the chief architect of the recently ordained mining investment law in Saudi Arabia. The driving force behind the legislation was Peter Leon – partner and Africa chair for international law firm Herbert Smith Freehills.

Leon praised the Saudi Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources for its strict commitment to international best practices for mining jurisdictions around the world throughout the period when Herbert Smith Freehills acted on their behalf to draft the legislation in 2020.

“We looked at Western Australia, Ontario and Botswana, which is regarded as having the best mineral regime of any developing country,” Leon said. “I have to say it was a pleasure working with the Ministry. They were completely fixed on best practice principles, on objective requirements for granting licences and were very focused on sustainability and ESG-related issues.”

RGN would like to offer huge thanks to Future Minerals Forum for bringing the industry together for the first time in Riyadh. We hope to see you all again next year!