A major, six-year geological survey program hopes to generate fresh data on mineral deposits in a vast area of western Saudi Arabia, according to Austrade sources in the capital, Riyadh.
The move comes as new laws and mining regulations look set to increase opportunities for Australian mining companies that want to operate in the kingdom.
The A$5.5 billion Regional Geological Survey Program (RGP) began in October 2020. It includes a geochemical and airborne geophysics analysis of 600,000 square kilometre in the Precambrian Arabian-Nubian Shield, bordering the Red Sea.
The survey project aims to provide a better geological understanding of the distribution of mineral resources in Western Saudi Arabia. It will become a vital technical resource for future mining investors.
Mining in Saudi to become a major industrial sector
Meanwhile, a new mining investment law should aid investment.
The law will create two new types of mining licence: an ‘Exploitation Licence’ and a ‘General Purpose Licence’. The Saudi Government will also establish a new committee that has the power to decide on applications for the allocation of mine complexes, and objections filed by government agencies.
According to the Saudi Deputy Minister for Mining Investment Development, Salah Al-Aqili, the RGP survey program will be a key element in the Saudi Arabia’s mining industries strategy.
In a recent webinar, the Minister said the strategy aims … ‘to develop the Saudi mining sector into the third pillar of our industrial sector, along with petroleum and petrochemicals.’
Familiar terrain for Australian METS
According to Austrade Senior Resources and Energy Manger in Riyadh, Abed Hakmi, the combination of new regulations and increased exploration should generate opportunities for Australian METS companies.
‘Australia’s wealth of minerals across large sections of undeveloped natural terrain bears striking similarities to many countries in the Middle East,’ says Hakmi. ‘This will give Australian METS companies a competitive advantage in providing services in this region.’
‘Similarly, the way in which Australia has developed its mining sector mirrors recent increases in government investment,’ he adds. ‘Both countries have recently conducted major exploratory projects.’
Australian survey skills have a great reputation in Riyadh
Dr Wadee Kashghari, who is leading the RGP survey program, says that some of the personnel employed by technical partners on the survey have worked on similar projects in Australia.
‘One of several benchmarks for us was the Australian Centre for Exploration Targeting (CET),’ says Dr Kashghari. ‘CET is recognised as a global research leader. They have a keen focus on increasing the rate and quality of mineral discovery, without relying simply on increased expenditure,’ he says.
Hakmi says that with a global reputation and close links in terms of personnel, Australian METS have increased scope for participating in future mining projects in the kingdom.
Austrade to help METS companies in Saudi Arabia.
As more detailed information on mineral deposits becomes available, survey data will be made publicly available to potential mining investors through the Saudi National Geological Database.
Hakmi says that that the data will be globally benchmarked, and that Austrade in Saudi Arabia can help Australian METS companies who want to access it and engage with opportunities in Saudi Arabia.
‘The data will be tested against similar international data structures, including the Australian Geomechanics society,’ says Hakmi
‘Any Australian METS company that wants to know more should contact me direct.’