Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and Kyrgystan are seeking new investors to develop their mining GDP, government representatives told the Mines and Money conference in London this week. Saudi Arabia and Nigeria, which both aim to use mining to reduce their economic dependence on oil, plan to proceed with a program of auctions of mineral deposits in the near future; and in the case of Nigeria next year, they said.
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Development of these resources may help overcome what is expected to be a supply gap in coming years for energy transition materials including lithium, copper, cobalt and rare earth elements, demand for which is rising rapidly for use in electric vehicle batteries and engines and windpower turbines, they said.
"There is a significant risk of future undersupply," Khalid bin Saleh Al-Mudaifer, Saudi Arabia's vice minister of mining affairs of the kingdom's ministry of industry and mineral resources, told delegates at the event. It is crucial to maintain supply chains as a potential supercycle emerges in some mineral commodities, he said.
Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and Kyrgystan propose to offer tax holidays or funding incentives and access to geological data to new mine investors.
Saudi Arabian minerals 'underexplored'
Saudi Arabia's Al-Mudaifer said the kingdom's mineral wealth is "largely underexplored" but that $50 million has over the last ten years been invested by the private and public sectors, including in development of phosphates and bauxite, allowing the country to become a global player in these areas.
The kingdom also has reserves of copper, silver, tantalum, tin, niobium, zinc, uranium, iron ore and others. Overall, 130 exploration licenses and eight new mine exploitation licenses have recently been granted, he said.
"Mining will be a third pillar of the Saudi economy after oil & gas and petrochemicals and we have now launched a mining strategy with more than 37 initiatives," the vice minister said, noting the country is "on track" with its Vision 2030 social and economic development strategy, launched in 2016. "We want to reduce our mineral imports by 65%," he said, noting that the kingdom currently imports a number of minerals. The kingdom, a major oil producer, aims to derive 50% of its energy from renewables by 2030 and is building a 3 million mt green hydrogen plant, he said.
The kingdom is to hold a Future Minerals Summit in Riyadh January 11-13, 2022 to discuss investment opportunities, Al-Mudaifer said.
Nigeria: new discoveries
Abdulrazaq Garba, director general of Nigeria's ministry of mines and steel development, noted that 17 new orebodies have recently been identified in the west African nation, rich in iron ore, hardrock lithium, tin, lead, zinc, copper and gold.
"Mining in Nigeria is still very fresh, we're new in this area," Olamilekan Adegbite, minister of mines and steel development, told delegates. Some of Nigeria's minerals are found very near the surface, meaning that production costs can be low, for instance of just $600/oz for gold, he said. "We're also encouraging processors to come to Nigeria," he said.
As much as 85% of the mining sector's activity in Nigeria is informal, there is limited government spending in the sector and formalization could bring benefits, said Hijiya Fatima Shinkafi, executive secretary of the country's Solid Minerals Development Fund (SMDF).
There are many projects in Nigeria at the exploration stage and limited government spending in the sector, Shinkafi said. The SMDF is being set up with the aim of investing $500 million in the mining sector, which is expected to unlock $1 billion in third-party investments and financing. It is hoped that within five years mining revenues could grow ten-fold to account for 3% of Nigeria's economic wealth, she said in a presentation.
Established projects in Kyrgystan
Kyrgystan is seeking investors for various mine projects containing copper, gold, vanadium, rare earth elements, tantalum, niobium, molybdenum, iron ore and others, said Tengiz Bolturuk, CEO of the National Holding Company of Kyrgystan. The country has a new mining code based on a Canadian mining code and best international practices, he said.
Chinese investors are interested in the Djetym magnetite iron ore 32-36% Fe project, which is sited about 150 km from the Chinese border, Bolturuk said. Drilling is expected to start at the Andash copper and gold deposit while the Kutessay rare earths deposit is at the pre-feasibility study stage and the Taldybulak molybdenum, copper and gold project, with reserves of 26,438 mt of copper, was previously drilled in the 1980s and 1990s, he said.
"We would like to open up for western investors," Bolturuk told delegates. The country is also seeking investors in logistics, including water supplies and the internet, and has more than 200 small hydropower projects, he said.