RIYADH (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s King Salman will inaugurate on Thursday the Waad Al-Shamaal project, a 440-square-km city for mining industries in the country’s northern region, Al Arabiya TV said, quoting energy minister Khalid al-Falih.
The project will cost 85 billion riyals ($22.7 billion) and create 10,000 jobs, Falih said. It is part of an industrial scheme aimed at opening up Saudi’s north to development that will boost job creation.
Mining is key to the kingdom’s reform plan to diversify its economy away from hydrocarbons, as the government aims to more than triple this sector’s contribution to the nation’s economic output by 2030.
Saudi authorities estimate the region holds 500 million tonnes of phosphate ore, around 7 percent of global proven reserves, mainly in the Al Jalamid and Umm Wu’al areas between Arar and Turaif.
The energy ministry estimates the kingdom’s unused mineral resources to be valued at 5 trillion riyals.
Saudi Arabia’s efforts to build an economy that does not rely on oil and state subsidies involves a shift towards mining vast untapped reserves of bauxite, the main source of aluminum, as well as phosphate, gold, copper and uranium.
Al Arabiya quoted Falih as saying the mining sector will be open to foreign investment after introducing a new law, without giving further details.
Currently Saudi Ma’aden <1211.SE> is the kingdom’s sole miner, producing gold and copper and has in recent years expanded into the production of aluminum and phosphates. It is 65 percent owned by the kingdom’s Public Investment Fund.
Ma’aden, which is also the Gulf’s largest miner, was developing its third project to manufacture phosphate fertilisers at its Waad al-Shamal facility at an estimated cost of 24 billion riyals.
(Reporting by Marwa Rashad; additional reporting by Rania El Gamal; Editing by David Evans)