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Saudi energy minister: There’s more to us than just oil

Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman Saudi Arabia energy producer Reuters
Saudi oil minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman says the kingdom is an energy provider, not just an oil producer
  • Government minister’s plea
  • ‘All forms of energy’ provided
  • Untapped mineral wealth

Saudi Arabia should no longer be described as an oil producer but an energy provider, the kingdom’s oil minister said this week.

Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman told a minerals forum in Riyadh that Saudi Arabia aims to be a provider of all forms of energy, with global companies welcome to manage the entire process themselves as long as they hire Saudis within the country.

“Our tag now, and what we are working on, is that we would like to be an energy-producing country of all sorts of energy,” he said, listing renewables, green hydrogen production and carbon capture technologies as areas where the kingdom was progressing.

“You want green hydrogen, you can have it, you want clean hydrogen you can have it, you want green electricity you can have it.

“We are surveying every corner of this country to ensure that [for] anyone who wants it, [it] can be delivered almost to his home address.” 

The country is also trying to develop a series of renewable industries, including mining to provide rare metals for the global energy transition. 

Partly through its flagship mining company, Maaden, Saudi Arabia is exploring for lithium and other rare metals as part of its drive to become a location of electric vehicle manufacturing. A vast green hydrogen production facility is being developed at Neom

Most of the iron and steel needed for giga-projects at the heart of Saudi Arabia’s economic diversification plans is sourced from abroad. 

Officials and industry experts at the Future Minerals Forum warned there was a lack of investment in mining globally to extract rare metals needed for electric car batteries and other products key to mitigating climate change. 

Saudi Arabia’s finance minister, Mohammed Al-Jadaan, said: “We need a lot more mining than we have today. If the financial system is closed in the face of the mining companies we’re not going to get there.”

Low-income countries would need financial help to develop mining, Al-Jadaan said. “Low income countries will not have what it needs in terms of fiscal buffers, strong economies, strong governance, talents available, and if you’re saying ‘I’ll only go where all of this is available’, you’re depriving them from participating in this energy transition.” 

The kingdom’s government says its estimated untapped mineral wealth has almost doubled in nearly a decade to $2.5 trillion, based on exploration of only 30 percent of the kingdom’s mineral region. 

The mining ministry has created a $182 million fund to encourage exploration, and is now offering companies far larger tracts of land to explore per licence. 

But analysts say Saudi Arabia is still a small player in global metals and mining, where the leading producers across a range of minerals are major economies such as China, the United States, Canada and Russia, and only a small part of the country’s reserves are rare metals. 

Richard Bronze of Energy Aspects in London said: “It seems like these reserves cover a range of different metals, not just the ones that are most relevant to the energy transition.” 

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