Saudi Arabia intends to restructure its $1.3 trillion mining industry to attract private capital into the sector and diversify its oil-reliant economy, the kingdom's energy minister said in press comments on Monday.
Khalid Al-Falih said the government is banking on small and medium companies to develop the domestic mining sector with the support of public funds.
"We have plans to restructure the mining sector to develop the industry so the local products will become more competitive," he told the Saudi Arabic language daily Okaz.
Al Falih estimated the value of mine resources in Saudi Arabia at more than five trillion riyals ($1.3 trillion), and said the value is projected to sharply increase following the approval of an exploration programme.
He disclosed plans to build two copper smelters in the Eastern and Western flanks of Saudi Arabia, adding that there are studies for other metal projects.
"We want to develop the mining sector to support the non-oil industry in the kingdom…we aim to become one of the largest basic metals producers," he said.
"We are working to create investment opportunities in this promising sector… Saudi Aramco and SABIC are welcome to invest but we are banking on small and medium companies which can contribute significantly to the development of this industry."
In July, the Saudi Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources Ministry said it had drafted a "mining investment law" to lure local firms and investors into the mining sector, which is a vital part of the kingdom’s Vision 2030 economic diversification strategy.
"The new law will open the door for investors and the private sector in the kingdom to benefit from the promising investment opportunities that will arise in this vital sector," the ministry said.
(Writing by Nadim Kawach; Editing by Shane McGinley)
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