Saudi Arabia: Mining, Minerals and Fuel Resources

Saudi Arabia is a part of the Middle East located between the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. The total area of the country is 2,149,690 km2, and it has a population of 26,534,504 as of July 2012. The country experiences mostly extreme dry desert climate.

After years of power struggles within the Middle East countries, the modern Saudi state was founded in 1932. The terrorist attacks in May and November 2003 made the government launch a strong campaign against domestic terrorism and extremism.

The national flag of Saudi Arabia.
Image Credit: CIA Factbook.

Saudi Arabia’s key natural resources include petroleum, natural gas, gold, copper, and iron ore. The country’s economy is primarily oil-based and is considered as the largest exporter of petroleum in the world. The GDP as of 2011 was $691.5 billion. Nearly six million foreign workers are employed in the petroleum and oil industry of Saudi Arabia.

The country currently faces issues such as aquifer depletion, fast growing population, unemployment, and an economy that is over-dependent on petroleum production and prices.

Overview of Resources

Saudi Arabia has nearly one-fifth of the world's proven petroleum reserves. The government has exclusive rights over all the mineral deposits of the state.

In 2010, the production of low-grade iron ore, low-grade bauxite, cement, clays, ethane, methane, propane, direct-reduced iron, lead, and pozzolana increased.

The map of Saudi Arabia. Image Credit: CIA Factbook.

Metals

Ma’aden and its subsidiaries Ma’aden Gold and Base Metals Co. (MGBM) and Saudi Company for Precious Metals are involved in exploration activities to locate precious metals and related minerals at many sites. MGBM currently operates five gold mines in Saudi Arabia and since 1988 has produced more than 4 million ounces of gold.

KEFI Minerals, a gold and copper exploration company, has claimed to have located high grade gold and silver in the country after conducting several surveys. This discovery is likely to attract many investors. Mahd ad Dahab, which means Cradle of Gold, is one of the oldest mining sites in Saudi Arabia. The country has also opened many new mines such as the As-Suq and Ad Duwayhi.

A 740,000 Mt/yr capacity aluminum smelter has been constructed in Ras Az Zawr by the joint venture of Ma’aden and Alcoa Inc. of USA and is slated to start functioning in 2013.

Al Masane Al Kobra Mining Co. (AMAK), which is owned by local investors and the Arabian American Development Co. of USA, had been involved in the Al Masane project till 2010 when it granted a 5-year contract for underground mine development and operations to China National Geological and Mining Corp. in 2011. The surface plant at the mine has been designed to produce 51,000 t/yr of zinc concentrate, 35,000 t/yr of copper concentrate, and a dore capable of containing 6,000 kg/yr of silver and 200 kg/yr of gold.

In 2010, London Mining Plc of UK and National Mining Co. of Saudi Arabia agreed to handle the Wadi Sawawin iron ore project. Together the companies tried to attract funds for the proposed iron ore mine with a 5-Mt/yr-capacity iron ore pelletizing unit.

Fossil Fuels

The petroleum industry of Saudi Arabia accounts for 80% of its budget revenues, 90% of its export earnings, and 45% of the country’s GDP. The country is a leading producer of oil and natural gas, and is ranked eighth in terms of petroleum refining capacity in the world.

Discovery of new oil fields by Saudi Aramco such as the Arsan, the AsSayd, the Namlan, and the Qamran oilfields and the Jalamid gasfield in 2010 will likely further increase the country’s importance in the global petroleum sector and boost its revenue.

Natural gas production in Saudi Arabia has been steadily increasing. This was evident in the years 2008, 2009 and 2010, when production was 86,158 million m3 , 88,432 million m3 and 95,032 million m3, respectively.

Investment

Saudi Arabia has taken several key measures to attract foreign funding. Some of them are as follows:

  • Joining the WTO in 2005
  • Construction of six ‘economic cities’ around the country
  • Social development and infrastructure projects worth $373 billion to promote economic development between 2010 and 2014

According to recent reports, automation major Ventyx has inked a $2.8 million deal with MGBM as part of which the mining company will use Ventyx’s mining operations software solutions in its four existing mines to improve planning and performance of its gold mining operations. MGBM has massive expansion plans for its gold mines in the near future with several new projects to be launched soon.

According to experts, Saudi Arabia will continue to be the most significant supplier of petroleum to meet the ever-increasing global demand. The government is now more open to private investment in mineral projects, which would definitely attract both domestic and international investors in the coming years.

Disclaimer: The Author of this article does not imply any investment recommendation and some content is speculative in nature. The Author is not affiliated in any way with any companies mentioned and all statistical information is publically available.

Sources

https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world- factbook/geos/sa.html

http://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/country/2010/myb3- 2010-sa.pdf

http://www.maaden.com.sa/en/business/gold/

http://www.sharecast.com/cgi-bin/sharecast/story.cgi? story_id=20265412

G.P. Thomas

Written by

G.P. Thomas

Gary graduated from the University of Manchester with a first-class honours degree in Geochemistry and a Masters in Earth Sciences. After working in the Australian mining industry, Gary decided to hang up his geology boots and turn his hand to writing. When he isn't developing topical and informative content, Gary can usually be found playing his beloved guitar, or watching Aston Villa FC snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

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