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Monday, 16 January 2023

KSA’s mining push continues as Future Minerals Forum wraps up

More mining news trickles out of KSA: Mining was still in the spotlight in Saudi Arabia after the Future Minerals Forum wrapped last Thursday. Several partnerships are underway to extract and process key metals and minerals, among them a partnership that could see more British mining companies set up in the kingdom, a partnership with Australia-headquartered European Lithium to build a lithium processing plant, and another with global battery materials company EV Metals to build a production plant for essential EV battery chemicals. The Maaden-PIF JV set up to invest in global mining operations could deploy USD 15 bn in the coming years, sources say.

BUT, FIRST- Could we still be facing a shortage of key metals despite all the handshakes? Much more investment is needed to secure sufficient supplies of crucial energy transition metals like copper and nickel in the next decade, warned a host of executives at the forum, Bloomberg reports. Speakers — including commodity trading group Trafigura CEO Jeremy Weir and mining multinational Rio Tinto chair Dominic Barton — flagged the likelihood of significant price hikes amid an increasingly tight metals market, and warned of “short-termism” in the supply approach, the outlet notes.


Saudi Arabia and the UK have formed their first-ever partnership on critical minerals, according to a UK government statement, although nothing has yet been put in writing as the countries are set to formalize the relationship “in the coming months,” the statement adds.

What could the partnership look like? The two countries intend to collaborate to diversify sources of critical minerals, the statement notes. This could involve more UK mining firms setting up shop in Saudi, as well as the kingdom investing in the UK’s manufacturing and mining finance sectors, it adds.

Both sides have a vested interest in building critical mineral supply chains: The UK wants to shore up its critical mineral supply chains and reduce its dependence on China — which currently dominates the global market, the statement notes. Meanwhile, Saudi is positioning itself as a global hub for “green metals” and minerals and is working to enhance its phosphate, aluminum, and gold supply chains, Industry and Mineral Resources Minister Bandar Al Khorayef noted in a panel discussion during last week’s forum.


Maaden-PIF JV could deploy bns for global investments: The joint venture between Saudi mining company Maaden and the Public Investment Fund (PIF) — that’s being set up to invest in mining assets globally, as announced last week — is reportedly prepared to deploy over USD 15 bn of capital for investments in the coming years, according to unnamed sources quoted by the Financial Times.

This is much more than the figures publicly announced: Maaden and PIF would commit to providing up to SAR 11.9 bn (USD 3.2 bn) for the venture, according to public statements issued last week. But the FT’s sources claim USD 3.2 bn is the amount intended for investment in just the next 12 months. Saudi Arabia “has publicly downplayed the scale of [its] investment plans,” the FT quotes the sources as saying.


Australia, KSA set up a lithium processing plant: Australian-headquartered and ASX-listed mining exploration and development company European Lithium has signed a non-binding MoU with Saudi Arabia’s Obeikan Investment Group to establish a hydroxide plant to process lithium in Saudi Arabia, it said in a statement (pdf). The plant — designed to process lithium produced at European Lithium’s Wolfsberg Lithium Project in Austria — will operate as a 50-50 joint venture between the two companies, the statement notes. Lithium hydroxide and lithium carbonate are both key raw materials in EV battery production.

Australia’s EV Metals to set up chemical production plant: Saudi Arabia’s Royal Commission for Jubail and Yanbu — an autonomous branch of the Saudi government that manages the kingdom’s industrial cities — signed an agreement with global battery materials company EV Metals to lease 1.27 mn sqm of industrial land in Yanbu to set up a facility to produce key chemicals for EV batteries and renewable energy storage, Trade Arabia reports. Some SAR 3.3 bn (USD 88 mn) will be invested in the project, it added. This is part of a raft of industrial agreements worth a total of SAR 43 bn (USD 11.4 bn) signed on the side of the Future Minerals Forum, the publication added.


Finland, Angola eyeing closer mining ties with Saudi: Finland’s Deputy Minister for International Trade Nina Vaskunlahti met with Maaden during the forum to discuss the prospect of closer collaboration, she told Arab News last week. Angola also wants to deepen its mining work with the kingdom, as part of upping its own mining of materials including copper, nickel and lithium, Angola’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia told Arab News last week. Angola and Saudi respective chambers of commerce signed MoUs last week to boost economic ties between the two countries, the outlet adds.

Saudi looks to explore its sources of geothermal energy: Saudi Arabia’s Energy Ministry signed an MoU on Wednesday with the Saudi Geological Survey (SGS) — a government agency tasked with sourcing and storing geological data — to “explore the sources of geothermal energy in the kingdom,” SGS announced in a tweet.

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