“We meet at a pivotal time for the industry as it faces up to the gulf between supply and demand for the metals the planet needs to decarbonise,” H.E. Bandar bin Ibrahim Al-Khorayef said ahead of the first ever Future Minerals Forum in Riyadh. The Saudi Minister of Industry and Mineral Resources’ address to delegates in the lead up to the January event focused on the opportunity for Saudi Arabia to ‘be the catalyst for change’ across the mining super-region stretching from the Congo to Kyrgyzstan. “With vast, largely unexplored and untapped resources, we can supply the critical minerals that will deliver the transition to cleaner energy, more sustainable transport and a low carbon future,” he continued.
After a whirlwind three days of illuminating conversations between leading names in the global mining industry on a number of future-facing themes inside the King Abdulaziz International Conference Center, the Future Minerals Forum drew to a close. However, the ways in which the overarching themes were discussed during the event will have surely left a lasting impression on the delegates in attendance, including members of the RGN team. As part of our post-event coverage, RGN’s editor was able to put some questions in front of two headline Future Minerals Forum speakers from the Saudi Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources. Exclusive content from H.E. Bandar bin Ibrahim Al-Khorayef and H.E. Khalid Saleh Al-Mudaifer can be read below.
H.E. Bandar bin Ibrahim Al-Khorayef – Minister of Industry and Mineral Resources, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia:
Jacob Ambrose Willson: How does Saudi Arabia plan to transform its under-explored mineral potential into the targeted $64 billion contribution to GDP from the mining sector by 2030?
H.E.: Under the guidance of Vision 2030, the Kingdom has taken a holistic approach to revitalising the mining sector. Understanding the needs of the mining ecosystem – investors, operators, and communities – we have three primary focus areas:
As a result of the changes we have made, investment in Saudi mining has already grown substantially, achieving its highest revenues in 2021, exceeding SR727 million, a 27% increase over the year before, and we will be looking to build on that success by holding up to three licensing rounds during 2022. We expect to attract some US$170 billion in foreign investment in our mineral resources industry by the end of the decade.
JAW: How important is this target in terms of underlining the Kingdom’s role at the centre of the proposed new mining frontier stretching across Africa, central Asia and the Middle East?
H.E.: The $64 billion GDP target, which resembles a near quadrupling of mining’s contribution in 2018, is important because it will cement Saudi Arabia’s position as a major power on the global mining scene. The increase will provide further evidence that the approach we chose produces results and that it can be used by other emergent mining nations to boost the development of their mineral resources. If we are to meet the growing global demand in critical minerals, for example, we will need to collaborate to meaningfully support the global push towards a circular economy.
H.E. Khalid Saleh Al-Mudaifer – Vice-Minister for Mining Affairs, Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
JAW: How successful was the first Future Minerals Forum, in terms of convening all levels of the global mining sector value chain and promoting Saudi Arabia as the natural centre point of a new regional mining hub?
H.E.: The inaugural Future Minerals Forum exceeded expectations with more than 7,500 participants (4,000 virtual and more than 3,500 people attending in-person), 136 speakers, 100 countries represented and more than 30 Saudi and international company showcases. More than 85% of speakers were ministerial and CEO level or above, making the Forum one of the largest gatherings of senior industry leaders at any such event.
The Forum attracted the best minds from across the mining, investment and multilateral communities and raised awareness of Saudi Arabia’s transformation and genuine commitment to sustainability in mining. Its standing as an influential country enabled Saudi Arabia to convene senior leaders from around the world, despite the difficulty to travel posed by COVID-19.
These achievements build on the success of the inaugural Future Minerals Ministerial Roundtable held the day prior to the Forum. This was a historic gathering attracting ministers, senior officials, and international organisations (World Bank, IRENA, IFC, UNEP, ICMM, NRGI, DPI, EITI) from more than 30 countries in the region and beyond, to discuss mining’s contribution to society and critical minerals for the future clean economy.
The Middle East, central Asia, and Africa cover 79 countries and have vast and largely untapped mineral resources with which to develop modern mining industries that meet ever higher societal expectations on sustainability. These are regions with similar aspirations, young populations, high rates of economic growth and industrialisation. They also share similar challenges, their mineral potential is under-explored, they have few regional champions, limited infrastructure, limited access to capital and few young people studying mining related disciplines.
Saudi Arabia is the right location, and this is the right time to start a global conversation about future minerals. The Kingdom has the vision, the mineral endowment, a large market, regional relationships, and the right geography to become a hub for the minerals value chain.
JAW: To what extent was this event a good opportunity to advertise the benefits of sustainable mining to society, particularly as we enter a new era of decarbonisation in Saudi Arabia and around the world?
H.E.: Global demand for minerals and metals is estimated to grow at least fourfold by 2040 to meet the needs of modern society and enable the energy transition. Without minerals and mining the world will simply not be able to develop the technologies and products to decarbonise the economy.
The contribution of minerals and mining to society is enormous. Minerals that are mined sustainably will play a vital role in reducing the impacts of climate change on vulnerable countries and communities, as well as bring jobs, education and prosperity to parts of the world that have few other economic options to achieve development.
The Forum’s three themes of reimagining mining, mining’s contribution to society and lands of opportunity, struck a chord with participants. Here are themes at the forefront of the challenges and opportunities facing the global mining industry. Speakers overwhelmingly considered these to be the right issues to be discussing. The value here is in participants’ commitment to shape a forward global and regional agenda based on these conversations.
JAW: How is Saudi Arabia attempting to re-imagine the mining sector to attract young, local talent into the industry, in line with plans to boost employment in mining to drive the Vision 2030 goals?
H.E.: The Future Minerals Forum further highlighted Saudi Arabia’s ambition as a nation and the role it can play as a catalyst to drive mining development in the region, serving as a hub leveraging its competitive energy supply, leadership on sustainability through projects like NEOM, modern mining law, tapping its financial resources for investment in exploration and unique position as a logistics crossroad.
Through the Vision 2030 and minerals will play a key part in developing a value chain that processes and refines, manufactures and innovates and provides our young people with quality jobs and careers. The opportunity is for Saudi Arabia to develop a world leading sustainable mining industry that goes beyond compliance with legal frameworks to achieve lasting benefits for our people. To achieve this Saudi Arabia wants to attract international private partners and know-how.
The Wa’ad Al Shamal bauxite and phosphate industrial project is an example of how private-public partnerships can succeed. These partnerships are the key to defining the best possible outcomes. More than $14.7 billion has been invested by the partners to date with thousands of jobs created for local people. This is a serious investment in development and a model to follow.