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Surprising Saudi Arabia: reflections on our first visit to the Future Minerals Forum 2024

If Saudi Arabia were a company it would be Microsoft or Apple, well managed, fully priced and progressive.

 

This week was my first visit to Saudi Arabia and I was surprised. A steady diet of western media and having read “Blood Oil” I expected something more like the empty soul of Dubai with its subjects cowering to the whim of the Crown Prince.

 

The only folk that seemed under whelmed about Saudi Arabia at the 14,000 strong 2024 Future Minerals Forum were junior explorer and developers searching for a mirage of Petro Dollars for offshore projects.

 

When Saudi’s Vision 2030 says it wants mining to be the 3rd pillar of the Saudi economy it is talking about building mineral supply chains for its future industry. The welcome mat is certainly out for Western mining and processing expertise to be internalised and implemented on the Arabian Shield.

 

The Saudi Government’s Vision 2030 is their version of Americas Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) with similar aims - using plentiful local capital and low cost energy to onshore critical minerals and make Saudi a logistics and processing hub to support future industrial goals.

 

Canadian and Australian explorers active in Saudi in the past 2-3 years since the door swung open report lengthy delays for permitting and licenses and expensive local service providers.

 

How should foreign miners and service providers see Saudi Arabia? As potential smelters and refiners of offshore minerals shipped to Saudi for processing.

 

One Saudi fund explained they were looking for committed offshore partners that were ready and able to execute, were an expert in their field and that really needed Saudi.

 

Saudi is changing fast so the dozen or so MOU’s we witnessed signed today from mineral explorers, producers like Platinum Group Metals, Perseus Mining, Glencore and, interestingly, Huawei Telecom from China, will need to mature.

 

Energy and capital is as plentiful in Saudi as anywhere else in the world but it’s mostly being recycled domestically.

 

Impressive. Saudi is much more than an oil well. If I had to choose between the various OECD countries I know first hand and Saudi Arabia in a portfolio then Saudi would be my top pick on a medium and long term view.

 

Simon Catt

13/01/2024

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