Saudi Arabia plans to more than triple the contribution of its mining industry to national wealth as measured by GDP by 2030, the energy minister said on Tuesday.
The kingdom is finalising a mining strategy aimed at raising annual mining revenues from 64 billion riyals ($17 billion) to 240 billion riyals ($64 billion) by 2030, Khalid al-Falih told reporters at a conference in Jeddah.
"The ministry will develop this vital sector... double the number of work opportunities in the sector and boost exploration activities," Falih said.
Saudi Arabia's efforts to build an economy that does not rely on oil and state subsidies involves a shift towards mining vast untapped reserves of bauxite, used to make aluminium, as well as phosphate, gold, copper and uranium.
Saudi Arabia aims to implement the new mining strategy early next year.
The world's largest oil exporter has said that, as part of a broad economic reform plan, it wants to introduce structural reform to the mining sector which was largely neglected for decades apart from some small-scale gold extraction.
State-controlled Saudi Arabian Mining Co (Ma'aden) has said mining will generate an annual 97 billion riyals and create 90,000 jobs within five years.
Mining firms such as Ma'aden Aluminium, a joint venture between Ma'aden and US aluminium giant Alcoa, face fundamental pressures. Heavy aluminium production in China has left global prices for its products near multi-year lows.
Saudi companies' cost advantage in the energy-intensive mining industry may be eroded by rises in energy and gas feedstock prices in Saudi Arabia, which cut subsidies last December to cope with a nearly $100 billion state budget deficit caused by low oil prices.
Falih said the recent discovery of gas reserves on Saudi's Red Sea coast where many of the country's mineral reserves are located would help fuel the mining expansion.
"Energy in the Kingdom will not be an obstacle at all towards developing the mining sector, we announced in the kingdom that we will double gas production," he said.For all the latest industry news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
Subscribe to Arabian Business' newsletter to receive the latest breaking news and business stories in Dubai,the UAE and the GCC straight to your inbox.