In January 2022, Saudi Arabia opened a new chapter for the global mining industry with the hosting of the inaugural Future Minerals Forum in Riyadh, which was attended by around 3,500 delegates from the Kingdom and around the world, including key policy-makers, influential investors, business leaders and mining corporates. The Forum aimed to convene a global audience to focus conversations and investments on the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa, with these regions set to shape the future of the mining industry and the global economy.
The concept of a new mining frontier – with Saudi Arabia sitting perfectly at the intersection of three continents – was cemented by the end of the landmark conference. It was deemed a huge success by its organisers and all attending delegates, who were impressed by the warm Saudi hospitality and opulence of the King Abdulaziz International Conference Center (KAICC), but most importantly the future-facing themes of the show and the platform it provided for developing new partnerships and investment opportunities.
The first day of Future Minerals Forum was dominated by an invite-only ministerial roundtable, before the event officially opened to all delegates on January 12. Over the next two days, attendees were treated to a steady flow of ministerial addresses, panel discussions and fireside chats involving some of the biggest names in the industry, while being provided ample space to learn, network and do business in the regal surroundings. RGN was honoured to receive an invite to this era-defining event as a media partner, providing live coverage from the KAICC. Here is our full round-up from the first ever Future Minerals Forum.
Governmental representatives from 32 countries took part in a closed-door meeting on January 11 to discuss building partnerships for sustainable mineral extraction across the ‘super-region from Africa to central Asia’, as described by Saudi Arabia’s vice minister of mining affairs Khalid Al-Mudaifer.
“If the huge untapped potential of our emerging mining super-region…is realised, critical minerals can become a major development driver,” Al-Mudaifer said. “We hope to establish a common framework and share best practices to ensure the reliable and responsibly sourced supply of critical minerals for the global transition to net zero,” he added.
Ministers from Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Oman, Kuwait, Yemen and other regional Saudi allies attended the roundtable discussion, as well as high-level delegates from Australia, China, France, Japan, Russia, the UK and the US.
The assembled dignitaries, including delegates from international organisations like the Arab League, IRENA, UN and the World Bank, also agreed on a collaborative approach to developing resilient mineral supply chains, and called for a roadmap for progressing multi-stakeholder dialogue on mining and minerals in the region.
Arab mineral resources ministers meeting
The 8th Consultative Meeting of the Arab Mineral Resources Ministers – a partnership between the Saudi Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources and the Arab Industrial Development, Standardization and Mining Organization – was also held behind closed doors on day one of Future Minerals Forum.
Arab mining ministers discussed the successful establishment of a mineral resources database across the region, along with the launch of a digital platform for supplying Arab industrial and mining products to global markets.
Ministers also approved a proposal by the organisation to prepare a mining guideline system for Arab countries to keep pace with current international trends and latest technological advancements in order to adopt best practices.
Saudi Arabia to triple mining GDP by 2030
In the much anticipated opening address on day two, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Industry & Mineral Resources H.E. Bandar bin Ibrahim Al-Khorayef affirmed to the 1,000 strong audience in the plenary theatre the Kingdom’s plans to strengthen the designated third pillar of the national industry.
“We have set ambitious targets to raise the mining sector’s contribution to the national GDP from US$17 billion to $64 billion by 2030,” he proclaimed. H.E also highlighted the significant and promising potential for mineral exploration and mine development in the Middle East, West and central Asia and Africa, underscoring the Kingdom’s strategic geographical position at the centre of this region.
Mining has been identified as a key focus area of the Saudi Vision 2030, an ambitious set of national objectives primarily aimed at diversifying the Kingdom’s economy away from oil. Al-Khorayef welcomed all attendees to the Forum, which he said would provide a platform for collaboration towards the sustainable development of the mining industry.
Bristow emphasises copper’s central role for energy transition
Never one to shy away from the big issues, Barrick Gold CEO Mark Bristow called for the industry to be courageous and bold in its pursuit of sustainably produced metals around the world, particularly copper.
Speaking in a keynote fireside chat with emcee Ryan Chilcote, Bristow said: “The markets want you to invest in lithium, cobalt etc. But we know that battery technologies won’t be the final solution for our energy needs. But copper is such a strategic metal. No matter what the future looks like, we’ll need it,” he stressed.
Bristow also described the ‘enormous and unknown potential’ of the mining sector in the Middle East. “Saudi Arabia is saying it is going to help unlock this mineral endowment. The future of mining rests on the courageous people prepared to take it in a responsible way to this region, which will change this part of the world.”
Saudi Arabia and Tunisia sign renewables deal
The Saudi Ministry of Energy signed an agreement with its Tunisian counterpart in the field of renewable energy, energy efficiency and the rationalisation of consumption on day two – one of five MoUs signed over the course of the event.
“I have the honour to sign the first renewable energy agreement with Saudi Arabia,” said Tunisia’s mines and energy minister Neila Nouira Gonji. “We will work to implement the terms of the agreement based on equality and abundance of opportunities,” she continued.
Tunisia also secured a ‘strategic partnership’ with Saudi investors and financiers in the field of hydrogen and electric mobility at the event, according to the minister.
Saudi mining law follows international best practices: Peter Leon
During day three at Future Minerals Forum, RGN sat down with one of the principal architects of the recently enacted mining investment law in Saudi Arabia. Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) partner and Africa chair Peter Leon was a key driving force behind this key legislative reform.
Leon praised the Saudi Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources for its strong commitment to best practices employed by world-leading mining jurisdictions throughout the period when HSF acted on their behalf to draft the legislation in 2020-21.
“We considered the mining laws of Western Australia, Ontario and Botswana (among others), which is regarded, together with Chile, as having some of the best mineral regimes of any developing country,” Leon said.
“I have to say it was a pleasure working with the Ministry. They were completely committed to and focused on best practice principles, on objective requirements for the grant of licences and were very clear on promoting sustainability and ESG-related issues as part of the overall mineral law reform process.”
The new Mining Investment Law and Implementation Regulation will afford foreign financiers easier access to the nascent Saudi mining industry by streamlining the process of obtaining licences and reducing administrative discretion, bureaucracy, and other potential hurdles.
If regard is had to the World Bank’s reports that over 3 million tonnes of minerals and metals will be needed in the coming transition and that there are over $1.3 trillion worth of minerals to be exploited in the Kingdom, this opens huge opportunities for minerals companies.
NEOM CEO Al-Nasr says mining can shift ‘unclean’ perceptions
The CEO of Saudi Arabia’s $500 billion futuristic city, being built across 12,500 km2 near the Red Sea in the country’s Northwest, told the Future Minerals Forum audience that mining is intent on changing negative impressions of the sector.
NEOM is the jewel in the crown of the Kingdom’s economic diversification plans under Saudi Vision 2030, and is set to become ‘the first region on earth to be fully electrified and energised by renewable energy, including solar, wind and green hydrogen’, Nadhmi Al-Nasr said in a keynote panel discussion on creating the future of mining.
Al-Nasr said that the sector ‘needs to be clear and transparent’ in its sustainable development outlook. “We are in mining because we believe we can change the impression that this business is not clean.”
He added that the megaproject is starting with ‘no legacy’ when it comes to mining. “We are digging into technology and innovation and asking how we can bring aboard a green full chain mining from the mining field all the way to export and in-between industry.”
Saudi mining ministry hails Forum a huge success
At the conclusion of the final day of the 2022 Future Minerals Forum, dignitaries from the Saudi Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources took to the exhibition floor to warmly thank all sponsors, media partners and mining corporates for taking part in the momentous maiden event.
In a post-event statement, the ministry said: “The conference succeeded in highlighting the role of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its future vision in leading this sector at the regional and international levels.”
RGN would like to extend another big thank you to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the event organisers for delivering a first class mining conference to a global audience. We are looking forward to watching Saudi Arabia grow into a leader in sustainable mine development for Africa, central Asia and the Middle East in the coming years.