Saudi Arabia Mining Expands as Kingdom Chases Growth Beyond Oil

  • Gold production set to more than double by 2020: CEO
  • Mining part of Saudi Vision 2030 to move away from oil

Khaled Al Mudaifer on Nov. 23.

Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Saudi Arabian Mining Co. plans to double gold production by 2020 and is increasing output of other commodities from aluminum to ammonia as the world’s biggest crude oil exporter seeks to diversify its economy. 

Gold output will be 500,000 ounces by 2020 from about 200,000 ounces this year, Chief Executive Officer Khaled Al Mudaifer said Wednesday in an interview in Ras Al-Khair in eastern Saudi Arabia. Aluminum production through a joint venture with Alcoa Corp. in the U.S. has potential to increase to 1 million metric tons from 760,000 tons this year, through the use of recycled metal parts, he said.

Saudi Arabia wants to spur growth in the mining industry as it plans to create more jobs away from oil and increase revenue under the Saudi Vision 2030 program. The government aims for mining to contribute 97 billion riyals ($26 billion) to its economy by 2020 and create 90,000 jobs as a result, according to the Vision 2030 document. Saudi Arabia is rich in aluminum, phosphate, gold, copper and uranium.

“The government seems to be very keen on developing the sector,” Mohamed Ramady, a London-based independent analyst and former professor of economics at King Fahad University for Petroleum and Minerals, said Thursday by phone. “It seems there is a big plan for the company and the sector. They want to bring more private investors and fresh minds to the sector to end the state dominance over it."

Ma’aden, as the company is known, has created 10,000 jobs in the past five years and plans to add another 3,000 for its phosphates complex in Wa’ad Al Shamal in northern Saudi Arabia, Mudaifer said. The Ras Al Khair aluminum project alone employs 12,000 workers, he said.

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