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Saudi’s drive to create mineral value chains in Africa

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Critical mineral value chains are becoming increasingly important to countries across the world, including the Middle East and Asia. Image credit: Leon Louw for WhyAfrica

Saudi’s drive to create mineral value chains in Africa

The Future Minerals Forum 2024, held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia from 9-11 January 2024, focused on “Creating Resilient and Responsible Mineral Value Chains in Africa, Western and Central Asia.”

By Dr. Nicolaas C Steenkamp

The main outcomes from the Future Minerals Forum 2024 centred around strengthened partnerships that facilitated agreements between African and Asian countries, including memorandums of understanding on mineral exploration and development. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia once again showed it is actively positioning itself as a hub for the mineral value chain in the region.

The focus of the forum was on the critical minerals value chain. Its recognition of the increasing demand for “green metals” like lithium and cobalt used in clean technologies, and discussions on securing reliable supplies from the super-region.

Emphasis on ESG

At the same time the commitment to responsible mining was repeated, with emphasis on environmental sustainability, community engagement, and social responsibility throughout the mining value chain.

The World Bank announced a new initiative to support responsible mineral development in Africa. The forum also featured high-level speakers and panel discussions on various aspects of the mineral industry, offering valuable insights and best practices.

Agreements being reached

The forum resulted in several agreements being reached.  This included a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Saudi Arabia and the Democratic Republic of Congo: Collaboration on mineral exploration and development, including establishing a joint venture company.

There was an MoU reached between Saudi Arabia and Guinea: Cooperation on exploring and developing Guinea’s vast bauxite reserves for aluminium production. The development of a partnership between the Saudi Geological Survey and the Geological Survey of Namibia was also agreed. This entail sharing knowledge and expertise in mineral exploration and resource management.

Mineral and logistics hub

Saudi Arabia’s ambitious plans for a mineral processing and logistics hub was also announced. The kingdom announced plans to invest USD100-billion in developing a mineral processing and logistics hub, aiming to become a major player in the global mineral trade.

This includes the establishment of a cobalt sulphide processing facility, receiving cobalt hydroxide product from Eurasian Resources Group (ERG) Africa, from their tailings reprocessing operation at Metalkol in the DRC.

Excitement about Africa

New discoveries of critical minerals in Africa highlighted significant discoveries of lithium and cobalt in countries like Mali and Namibia, further fuelling excitement about the region’s potential to have projects with investment by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The forum also saw some concerns about social and environmental impacts being raised. While the forum emphasised responsible mining, some news coverage raised concerns about potential negative impacts on local communities and the environment if mining projects are not managed sustainably and potentially not meeting the goals as set out in Vision 2023.

Saudi’s drive to create mineral value chains in Africa

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 Saudi’s drive to create mineral value chains in Africa

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