LONDON — Saudi Arabia's Vice Minister of Industry and Mineral Resources for Mining Affairs Eng. Khalid Saleh Al-Mudaifer stressed that minerals are indispensable to the energy change to renewables. Decarbonization – the net-zero transition – cannot happen without minerals and metals, he pointed out.
He noted that this requires us to scale up discoveries and we need to scale up production. Noting that the World Bank says that by 2050 the production of minerals such as graphite, lithium, cobalt and copper needs to increase by nearly 500% to meet the future demand for clean energy technologies.
Al-Mudaifer made the remarks during the Mines and Money conference in London. International delegates and global mining investors who attended the conference heard Saudi Arabia's argument that the energy transition from hydrocarbons to renewables is opening the path for it to become a global leader in sustainable and innovative production of minerals and metals, especially since a vast, new and largely untapped minerals super-region is emerging, stretching from Africa to central Asia.
He stressed that as the transition accelerates, mineral and metal supply chains need to become more resilient. "The pandemic and geopolitical tensions have shown their weaknesses. And we have seen a rise in ‘resource nationalism.’ As a consequence, we see cost spikes for some minerals up to 350%.”
To achieve a ‘below 2°C increase’ future, the World Bank estimated that more than 3 billion tons of minerals and metals are required for the necessary wind, solar and geothermal power, and energy storage.
The Vice Minister highlighted the advances that Saudi Arabia has already made in its mining industry. As he noted, the significant potential for KSA largely lies in precious and base metals—including gold, zinc, copper, and silver in addition to a few specialty metals such as niobium and tantalum.
In terms of phosphate fertilizer production alone, Al-Mudaifer stated that the Kingdom has already become the world leader. Estimates for total phosphate reserves vary from approximately 2.3 billion to almost 7.3 billion tons. The total in-situ value of this phosphate resource is estimated between $102.4 billion and $321 billion.
He stated that the Kingdom stabilized aluminum markets by building an industrial city that focuses on extracting and producing final products for the world. And working with well-known electric vehicle manufacturers such as Lucid Motors and automotive sector suppliers such as EV Metals to build an integrated electric vehicle manufacturing complex.
Al-Mudaifer further pointed to important projects such as the Kingdom’s work in hydrogen, with KSA creating the largest green hydrogen plant in the world. Additionally, 8 months ago, it announced a $5 billion project that – from a standing start – is expected to produce up to 250,000 tons, by 2026.
Economies of scale are needed to make new green technologies such as hydrogen cost-competitive compared to conventional technologies, with costs needing to be cut by 50%, he said, adding, a McKinsey consultants’ report published last week makes the case that an oil-rich country like Saudi Arabia can lead in green hydrogen.
“We are well placed to further scale-up mining and build integrated value chains. We have a stable government, and we have stable fiscal policies. We have experience. We have low-cost energy. We have excellent infrastructure,” Al-Mudaifer said.
He ended his speech by highlighting the recent successes of KSA minerals production, saying that Saudi Arabia has helped improve global food security by developing an integrated phosphate fertilizer value chain.
The Kingdom helped improve global food security by developing an integrated phosphate fertilizer value chain. And it has stabilized aluminum markets by building an industrial city focused on the extraction and production of finished products for the world.
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