Saudi looks to private sector to boost gold production to 14 tons

Published July 3rd, 2001 - 02:00 GMT

Saudi Arabia is looking to the private sector and new mining regulations to help boost annual gold output to 14 tons by 2003, a newspaper reported Monday, July 3. 

 

A study by Canada's Watts, Griffis and McOuat (WGM), consulting geologists and engineers, will "open new investment opportunities in the sector", WGM's Ali Berman told the Arab News. 

 

The study, commissioned by the Saudi oil and mineral resources ministry, will focus on "precious and non-precious metals in various parts of the kingdom and propose the requirements to develop the infrastructure" of the mining sector. 

 

Ministry undersecretary Zuhair Nawab said the Saudi government hoped private investment would boost gold production as it had done in Australia. 

 

New regulations are in place to step up prospecting and mining activities, and also to increase the private sector's involvement in the metal processing industry and marketing, Nawab said. 

 

Saudi's main gold mine, Mahd al-Dhahab -- whose Arabic name means golden bed and which has been known for 3,000 years -- has an estimated 26 grammes of gold per tonne. 

 

But output from Mahd al-Dhabab and the kingdom's second largest goldmine in Sukhaybarat declined last year to five tons from a high of 11 tons a year, Nawab said. 

 

The state-owned Saudi Arabian Mining Company (Maaden) that runs Mahd al-Dhabab and has a 50-percent stake in Sukhaybarat, is a target for privatization in 2002, Oil Minister Ali al-Nuaimi has said. 

 

Maaden produces 120,000 ounces of gold, 300,000 ounces of silver, 900 tonnes of copper and 3,000 tons of zinc a year.  

 

Saudi Arabia launched a privatization plan in 1997 in an effort to cut red tape and allow public companies to grow independent of a government whose investment capacity is tied to oil prices. — (AFP) 

 

© Agence France Presse 

© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)

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