LONDON - Saudi Arabia is exploring the potential launch of a new commodity trading platform for battery materials, including graphite and rare earths, its vice minister of industry and mineral resources said.

Riyadh's efforts to build an economy that is not dependent on oil include a shift towards mining the country's untapped mineral resources - worth about $1.33 trillion - including copper, lithium, phosphate and gold, but also investing in overseas assets.

"To be a minerals hub you have to have it all and we are studying a future minerals commodity exchange for graphite, rare earths, lithium, cobalt and even nickel, as there is no efficient commodity exchange nor price-finding mechanism for some," Khalid bin Saleh Al-Mudaifer told Reuters in an interview.

The Kingdom has been studying setting up the trading platform for the past three months and it does not expect a decision to be made before the next six, Al-Mudaifer said.

"We don't yet know if it would be feasible ... because the quantities are small and the specifications differ, it's not as easy as aluminium or crude oil."

There are currently no exchanges offering contracts for graphite or rare earth metals, both important materials for electric vehicle and the energy transition.

Lithium and cobalt can be traded on the London Metal Exchange and Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME).

"We are working with a number of consultants and also with the people who trade the commodities," he said.

Saudi Arabia's investment fund Manara Minerals, a joint venture between state-owned miner Ma'aden and the Public Investment Fund (PIF), was set up in January to buy assets overseas. It will prioritise copper, nickel, iron ore and lithium.

Its first major foray abroad was a deal to become a 10% shareholder in Vale's $26 billion copper and nickel unit last July.

(Reporting by Clara Denina, additional reporting by Pratima Desai. Editing by Jane Merriman)