Middle East mining: Saudi Arabia leads the way

GCC countries such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE are increasingly investing in mining operations, both at home and in African countries

The Mining Show came to Dubai last November, and Africa-Middle East Mining and Energy News looked at the future of the mining industry in the region. The event contained 40 sessions on various topics, which are centred around decarbonisation & sustainability, innovation, tech & automation, and operations & maintenance.Companies such as ABB, Innomotics, Dassault Systems, Quarry Mining, REMA TIP TOP and many others showcased cutting-edge technology and products on the exhibition floor from mineral exploration to the development of operations.

Saudi mining sector growth

So, what are the trends that will be seen in the region’s mining sector? Firstly, it can be said that Saudi Arabia will emerge as the kingmaker for the industry.

According to the General Statistics Authority, private sector companies engaged in the mining industry in Saudi Arabia saw an increase in operating revenues, surging by nearly 63% in 2022.

This made them the highest revenue generators within Saudi Arabia’s non-oil sector. A government report published by the Saudi daily Alwatan revealed that the mining sector contributed nearly one-third of the total operating revenues for the private sector in the world’s largest oil-exporting nation, surpassing non-oil industries.

Last year, the mining sector alone generated a substantial operating income of approximately US$373bn, amounting to SAR1.4 trillion. The total operating revenues for Saudi Arabia’s private sector also witnessed substantial growth, soaring by approximately 24% to reach US$1.5 trillion last year (SAR5.07 trillion), up from US$1.08 trillion (SAR4.08 trillion) in 2021.

Moreover, the country is keen to become an international hub for green minerals processing. Speaking at the 2023 Middle East and North Africa Climate Week (MENACW) in Riyadh, the country’s Vice Minister for Mining Affairs at the Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources, Khalid Saleh Al-Mudaifer, highlighted how the kingdom intends to attain its goals.

He emphasised that this would be accomplished by leveraging its strategic location, well-developed infrastructure, and robust domestic demand.

The Minister also noted the significant surge in mineral demand, which supports the transition to clean energy.

However, he acknowledged the challenges associated with this transition, particularly in terms of discovering and developing new resources, which could be two- to ten-times the current production capacities.

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