Saudi Arabia to auction mining licenses in 2022

Vice Minister for Saudi Mining Affairs Khalid Al-Mudaifer. (Supplied)
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Updated 18 June 2021

Saudi Arabia to auction mining licenses in 2022

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia plans to auction two major mining licenses in 2022 for commodities including gold, copper and zinc, as the Kingdom aims to triple the mining
sector’s contribution to the national gross domestic product (GDP) to SR240 billion ($64 billion) and double the number of jobs to 470,000 by 2030.
The auction was announced by Vice Minister for Saudi Mining Affairs Khalid Al-Mudaifer during an interview with S&P Global on the sidelines of the Gulf Petrochemicals and Chemicals Association (GPCA) Leaders Forum in Dubai this week.
Looking ahead, Al-Mudaifer said: “We expect to see an increase in international investment in mining, particularly because demand for minerals around the world is growing fast.
According to geological surveys dating back 80 years, the Kingdom has an estimated reserve of untapped mining potential valued at $1.3 trillion.” Saudi Arabia’s mining industry has already attracted some major foreign investors. American industrial corporation Alcoa has a 25.1 percent stake in two companies, Ma’aden Bauxite and Alumina and Ma’aden Aluminum, as part of $10.8 billion joint venture with the Saudi Arabian Mining Company (Ma’aden) located in Ras al-Khair Industrial City in the Eastern Province.
The Mosaic Company, a fertilizer producer, has a 25 percent stake in the $8 billion Ma’aden Wa’ad Al-Shamal Fertilizer Production Complex located in Wa’ad Al Shamal Minerals Industrial City in the north of Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, Barrick Gold has a 50 percent stake with Ma’aden in the Jabal Sayid underground Copper Mine and Plant.
Al-Mudaifer said that a new mining law, which came into force on Jan. 1, 2021, will help attract more foreign investors because it treats them equally with local investors.
“We have already received a number of applications for exploration licenses from locals and are also in conversations with a number of international mining businesses,” he said.
Speaking at the GPCA forum, Al-Mudaifer described how the Kingdom’s mining sector remained resilient throughout the pandemic.
“The government’s robust response to controlling the pandemic, paired with our thoughtful approach to executing the country’s mining strategy, has enabled us to continue moving forward with our industry transformation,” said Al-Mudaifer.
He also highlighted the launch of the National Geological Database, which provides online access to 80 years of national records of geological, geophysical and geochemical information, and the introduction of a new web-based platform called Ta’adin, which will be the single point of access for mining license applications, issuance and information.
Saudi Arabia plans to launch a comprehensive geological survey to map the country’s mining potential. “The mining sector recently invested $500,000 to launch our Regional Geological Survey Program, designed to collect the essential data required for mineral exploration in the Kingdom,” Al-Mudaifer told S&P Global.
“The five-year program will conduct geophysical and geo-chemical surveys and create detailed mapping of more than 700,000 square kilometers of the mineral-rich Arabian Shield area in Saudi Arabia,” he said.
The Vision 2030 reform plan identified the mining sector as a potential third pillar of the Kingdom’s industrial growth, alongside petroleum and petrochemicals. The country is investing SR14 billion to develop the sector.
“We have emerged more confident than ever that mining in the Kingdom is on the fast track to becoming the third pillar of Saudi industry.” the vice minister said.
About $45 billion in private and public sector investments have gone into the mining sector over the past decade, mainly in phosphate and aluminum production.
“Saudi Arabia has some of the world’s largest reserves of phosphate, and so we are investing in major phosphate projects such as Ma’aden’s large-scale phosphate complex, Phosphate 3,” Al-Mudaifer said.
The $6.4 billion Phosphate 3 expansion will make Ma’aden one of the top three global phosphate fertilizer producers and Saudi Arabia the second largest phosphate fertilizer exporter worldwide.

Inflation in Saudi Arabia likely to decline in coming months

Updated 4 min 27 sec ago

Inflation in Saudi Arabia likely to decline in coming months

  • Credit to private companies will increase, depending on the Saudi economy recovery, says Al-Sudairi

RIYADH: The inflation rate in Saudi Arabia is expected to be 3.2 percent and the rate would decline because of a higher base, Mazen Al-Sudairi, head of research at Al-Rajhi Capital, told Arab News.

The cost of living index of Saudi Arabia remained in the positive trajectory and increased by 6.2 percent year-on-year in June 2021, mainly driven by a rise in value-added tax (VAT) from 5 percent to 15 percent in July 2020, according to Al-Rajhi Capital.

Saudi spending in the local market, especially in the retail, food, and beverages, and health segments continues to support the economy, it added.

Point of sales transactions continued their uptrend, increasing 4.6 percent in June 2021 compared to June of last year, primarily driven by an increase in restaurants and hotels, clothing and footwear, and health segments, Saudi Central Bank (SAMA) data revealed.

Credit to the private sector increased 16.8 percent year-on-year in June, while bank claims on the public sector increased 9.6 percent and the deposits grew by 10.2 percent, the official data showed.

Credit to private companies will increase, depending on the Saudi economy recovery, said Al-Sudairi.

SAMA also pointed out in its latest monthly report that remittances from Saudi nationals increased by 56 percent year-on-year in June 2021, while remittances growth from non-Saudi nationals declined 3.4 percent.

Remittance for Saudis increased due to an increase in travel while for expats the trend remains broadly flat, Al-Sudairi added.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said that Saudi Arabia’s economy is recovering well from the pandemic, and the Kingdom opened its doors to vaccinated foreign tourists on Aug.1.

Saudi Arabian youth use less cash as Kingdom pushes for cashless society

Updated 04 August 2021

Saudi Arabian youth use less cash as Kingdom pushes for cashless society

  • Only 18 percent of Saudis aged between 16 and 22 years use cash
  • Almost half of people 60 and above use cash

RIYADH: Youth in Saudi Arabia are using less cash compared to other age groups, a sign that the Kingdom’s plans to create a cashless society is on course.

Only 18 percent of Saudis aged between 16 and 22 years use cash, while almost half of people who are 60 and above use cash till date, a report by Fintech Saudi showed.

The report also showed that 20 percent of the population in central region of Saudi Arabia, which includes the capital Riyadh, use cash in their everyday transactions, while 37 percent of those living in the western region use paper money in their daily dealings.

However, paper currency is far from total demise even as the overall number of transactions carried out using cash have declined. Fintech Saudi’s survey results showed that around 60 percent of individuals Kingdom-wide still rely on paper money at least once a week and one out of four people in Saudi use cash every day.

Under Saudi Vision 2030, the Kingdom aims to increase the number of non-cash transactions to 70 percent in 2025.

“The COVID-19 outbreak has led to an acceleration in cashless activity with digital payments increasing by 75 percent over the past year, whilst cash withdrawals from ATMs and other payment points have declined by 30 percent over the same period,” the report said.

UAE’s ADNOC sells first cargo of blue ammonia to Japan

Updated 04 August 2021

UAE’s ADNOC sells first cargo of blue ammonia to Japan

  • Shipments were sold at an attractive premium to grey ammonia
  • CO2 from the ammonia production process will be captured and transferred to Al Reyadah

ABU DHABI: Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) said it has partnered with Fertiglobe to sell its first cargo of blue ammonia to Itochu in Japan, for use in fertilizer production.

The shipments represent the first production milestone of a planned scale-up of blue ammonia production capabilities in Abu Dhabi, which is expected to include a low-cost debottlenecking program at Fertiglobe’s Fertil site, UAE state news service WAM reported, citing a statement from ADNOC.

They were sold at an attractive premium to grey ammonia, underscoring the favorable economics for blue ammonia as an emerging source of low-carbon energy, it said.

Ammonia is a carrier fuel for hydrogen. A report earlier this year by Dii Desert Energy and Roland Berger said the Gulf region could create a $200 billion green hydrogen industry by 2050. The Gulf benefits from its strategic geographic location between European and Asian markets.

Green hydrogen is created with renewable energy and water, while blue hydrogen uses the traditional Haber-Bosch method but captures the carbon emissions.

CO2 from the ammonia production process will be captured and transferred to Al Reyadah, the first commercial-scale carbon capture plant in the Middle East and the world’s first commercial facility to capture CO2 from the iron and steel industry. The CO2 is subsequently used in ADNOC Onshore’s Rumaitha and Bab fields where it is stored underground. Each year, Al Reyadah captures up to 800,000 tons of CO2 from local UAE steel production.

Fertiglobe, the world’s largest seaborne exporter of nitrogen fertilizers, is a 58:42 joint venture between Dutch-listed chemical producer OCI and ADNOC. In June, Fertiglobe, ADNOC and ADQ said they would partner in a one million metric ton per annum blue ammonia project at TA’ZIZ in Ruwais, subject to regulatory approvals.

In April, it was reported that ADNOC and OCI had hired banks, including Morgan Stanley and Citigroup, for a possible $7 billion IPO of Fertiglobe.

“Today’s announcement builds upon ADNOC’s commitment to expanding the UAE’s position as a regional leader in the production of hydrogen and its carrier fuels, meeting the needs of critical global export markets such as Japan,” said Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, minister of industry and advanced technology and ADNOC group CEO.

Ammonia can be used as a low-carbon fuel across a wide range of industrial applications, including transportation, power generation, refining and industries, including steel, wastewater treatment, cement and fertilizer production. For Japan, in particular, hydrogen and its carrier fuels, such as blue ammonia, are expected to play an important role in the country’s ongoing industrial decarbonization efforts.

UAE, China agree to cooperate on money laundering, terrorism financing

Updated 04 August 2021

UAE, China agree to cooperate on money laundering, terrorism financing

  • Countries will share financial transaction information

ABU DHABI: The Financial Information Unit of the UAE’s central bank has signed a memorandum of understanding with the China Anti-Money Laundering Monitoring and Analysis Center to share financial information to aid the combating of money laundering and terrorism financing.

The MOU will see the two authorities exchanging transaction information related to their respective investigations, in accordance with the local laws and regulations applicable in both countries, the UAE’s state news agency WAM reported.

The agreement was signed by Ali Faisal Baalawi, head of the Financial Information Unit in the UAE, and Zhou Yunjun, director general of the China Center for Anti-Money Laundering Monitoring and Analysis.

“We will continue our unremitting joint efforts to confront all suspicious activities at the regional and international levels, and we will endeavor to reduce the threats these activities pose to the stability and integrity of the global financial system,” said Baalwai.

The UAE has become the largest market for Chinese exports, and the second largest trading partner for China in the Arab world, said Zhou.

Riyadh-based Al startup Intelmatix completes first investment round

Updated 04 August 2021

Riyadh-based Al startup Intelmatix completes first investment round

  • Size of funding round not disclosed
  • Investors include STV, Sultan Holdings

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia-based AI startup Intelmatix has closed its first investment round led by STV, Mena’s largest venture capital fund, and Sultan Holdings, a leading strategic investor in some of Mena’s largest companies.

“Artificial Intelligence offers opportunities worth billions,” Intelmatix Co-Founder and CEO Anas Alfaris, Wamda reported, citing a statement. “In the Saudi Arabian market alone, Location Intelligence opportunities exceed SR2 billion annually, and globally, the value is more than SR100 billion each year.”

Intelmatix, headquartered in the Saudi capital Riyadh, said on its official Twitter account it is pleased to announce the closing and launch of its operations in Riyadh, London and Boston.

“We recognize the revolution occurring today in the business world due to artificial intelligence and advanced analytics,” said Sultan Holdings Chairman Naif Bin Sultan Bin Muhammad bin Saud Al Kabeer. “For us, Intelmatix is more than an investment, it is a key strategic step to advance the prospects of AI adoption and enablement in the business sector.”

Intelmatix, founded by MIT graduates, is a pioneer in accessible AI and advanced analytics that deliver technologies that improve operations, productivity, growth, and sustainability for governments and the private sector.

“The Intelmatix team is made of the brightest minds in the region, and they have the ability and vision to make the company a major global AI player,” STV’s founder and CEO, Abdulrahman Tarabzouni said.

Global technology foresight firms report that the revenues from artificial intelligence in the Middle East will exceed SR1 trillion during the next 10 years, half of which is expected to be in the Saudi market, where AI will contribute at least SR500 billion to the Saudi economy by 2030.