Future Minerals Forum – pre-event Q&A

A new event that will shape the future of the global mining industry



The world is finally waking up to the urgent need for greater supply of a range of critical minerals and metals (after years – and perhaps even decades – of misperceptions and under-investment), as it faces up to the ominous threat of climate change. Globally synchronised efforts to create a ‘circular low carbon economy’ are predicated on the availability of raw materials including copper, lithium, nickel, aluminium and many more, often in tens of multiples higher than current global supply levels.


This begs the question – where will these critical minerals come from? While historical mining regions are just about churning out the raw materials required for the needs of society in 2022, the supply-demand gap is beginning to tighten as we enter a new decarbonised era for the global economy. The answer is to open up new mining frontiers with under-explored geological potential; and this is what Saudi Arabia intends to do in the region of the Middle East, central Asia and Africa – where it occupies a central geographical position.


Saudi Arabia is diversifying its own economy away from the long-dominant oil industry and hopes to emerge as a major new player in the global mining industry, after designating it as the third pillar of the Kingdom’s industry under Saudi Vision 2030. In its role as torch-bearer for the mining sector in the region, Saudi Arabia is hosting the inaugural Future Minerals Forum (FMF) in Riyadh on 11-13 January.


The Forum aims to convene global investors, policy makers and mining corporates across the entire value chain to help build a future minerals industry in the resource-rich lands stretching across the Middle East, central Asia and Africa. Over 2,000 international delegates will attend this momentous event, with sustainable mining and ESG set to be at the forefront of discussions around investment opportunities in the region.


Ahead of the conference, RGN’s editor received the following responses to a set of pre-event questions from the Future Minerals Forum Organizing Committee. RGN will travel to Riyadh next week and provide coverage from the event. Stay close to RGN’s channels for live updates and daily news round-ups.


Jacob Ambrose Willson: How is Saudi Arabia attempting to position itself at the centre of a ‘new frontier of mining’ that includes the Middle East, West and central Asia and Africa?


Future Minerals Forum: Saudi Arabia has first-hand experience and a unique geographic position which makes it the natural home for the new frontier of mining.


As a member of the G20, Saudi Arabia takes its global economic leadership role very seriously. We are aiming to help new nations make the most of their mineral resources by sharing the lessons we have learned and helping them avoid mistakes as they build out their mining ecosystems.


Saudi Arabia has successfully transformed its mining industry into a major pillar of its increasingly diversified economy, with plans to make it an even bigger contributor to Saudi GDP, accounting for US$64 billion of the total.


Furthermore, the Kingdom is geographically central and has a world-class logistical infrastructure, low energy and input costs, security and safety. We have 73,000 km of national roads, for example, and a rail network of 4,500 km with a capacity for 11 million tonnes annually. This is underpinned by robust local demand for minerals, which further reduces the risk to potential investors.


As such, we are also perfectly positioned to serve as a regional hub for other countries in the Middle East, West and central Asia and Africa; sharing our knowledge of how to foster FDI through efficient and transparent systems and connecting global markets and value chains through our robust infrastructure.


This is of the utmost importance since the mineral wealth in these regions has a pivotal role to play in building the resilient mineral supply needed to ensure a sustainable, green future globally, as demand for some critical metals and minerals such as copper, iron and cobalt is set to soar by over 1,000% over the coming decades.


This means new mining jurisdictions urgently need to be opened up through regulatory reform to respond to that demand and ensure the continuous availability of these minerals.


JAW: What is on the agenda for the pre-event Ministerial Roundtable, which will comprise of representatives from 25 governments around the world?


FMF: The purpose of the Roundtable is to set the scene for the conversations between governments, mining companies and investors about advancing the agenda of this new mining super-region at the Forum centred on the following themes and topics:


  • Lands of opportunity: Defining strategic partnerships for developing the minerals province
  • Critical minerals: Resilient critical minerals supply chains
  • Mining’s contribution to society: Developing mining and communities sustainably
  • Reimagining mining: Technology and energy transition


JAW: To what extent will discussions around critical minerals and the sustainable extraction of those minerals take centre stage during the Forum?


FMF: Critical minerals are one of the key themes of the Forum. As you know, the circular carbon economy will require a great many new ‘hard’ goods, including wind turbines, solar panels and new battery technologies to power electric vehicles. And these goods are mineral-intensive.


Driven by this demand, as well as the need for greater mineral resilience, the world needs new mining jurisdictions to come online… quickly. Copper demand, for instance, is seen rising by a stunning 1,200% between 2020 and 2025 alone. Zinc demand is projected to rise by 250% by 2050. The demand growth numbers are truly impressive; but they also add a sense of urgency to supply of these metals.


We believe the FMF can ‘jump-start’ the process of tapping into the tremendous metal and mineral potential of the super-region that stretches 9,000 km across Africa, the Middle East and central Asia.


Yet sustainability is a must in this day and age and Saudi Arabia has ensured that environmental protection and the interests of local communities are protected in all new mining projects with specific stipulations in the Mining Investment Law. Stringent environmental impact assessment and environmental reporting rules are at the heart of our new mining strategy as are local content requirements and mandates for closure and rehabilitation of mining sites once a project has come to the end of its productive life.


Within the conference programme all of these key themes are unpacked by global leaders from relevant institutions such as the World Wildlife Foundation, the ICMM, major and junior miners, investors and downstream suppliers.


Panel sessions topics include:


  • An Industry that Does Good Not Just Well – Avoiding the ‘Resource Curse’ – How to Position the Industry as Leaders on Sustainability and Development Partnerships?
  • Analysis on Critical Minerals for a Cleaner Economy
  • Sovereignty vs Globalisation – Developing Resilient Critical Minerals Supply and Value Chains for a Clean Future Economy


JAW: How will the event support investment and partnership opportunities along the entire mining value chain, from exploration to processing and manufacturing?


FMF: The Saudi mining strategy has put an emphasis on developing integrated value chains that we believe can be used as a template for other mining jurisdictions as well. An example of a recent outcome of our efforts was the EV Metals announcement of their intention to invest $3 billion in Saudi mineral processing plants.


The Kingdom is not only a country rich in mineral resources it is also a big consumer of metals and minerals, as well as finished products, and we have ambitious plans for becoming a major exporter of such goods, so we made an effort to cover all parts of the mining journey.


We built a database spanning 80 years of exploration to gain a better understanding of the geology, for example. We also reformed our legislation to improve the investment climate and boost production and processing, extending the value chain.


We are already reaping the benefits, with our success stories including the billion-dollar phosphate mining and processing partnership between Ma’aden and Mosaic and Co., and the joint venture with Alcoa for what is now the world’s largest and lowest-cost fully integrated aluminum production project.


So, we have proven that building a fully integrated mining value chain from scratch is possible and we are willing to share our expertise with others. In this context, FMF is a one-stop-shop for emerging mining nations offering them the know-how of building mining value chains from the technology and machinery needed to build the necessary infrastructure, to nurturing the talent that will maintain these value chains.


Register to attend Future Minerals Forum here: https://www.futuremineralssummit.com/delegate-registration/