Leaders call for increased collaboration to harness critical minerals

Leaders call for increased collaboration to harness critical minerals
Leaders call for increased collaboration to harness critical minerals

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - RIYADH: Collaboration between countries in Central Asia, Middle East and Africa is needed to harness critical minerals which is crucial to ensure a smooth energy transition. 

Speaking at the Future Minerals Forum in Riyadh on Wednesday, Saudi Arabia’s Investment Minister Khalid Al-Falih and Zambia’s Minister of Mines and Minerals Development Paul Kabuswe talked about the untapped potential of critical minerals in the super region comprised of nations in the Central Asia, the Middle East and Africa. 

Al-Falih said that the super region is home to at least a third of global resources, which includes critical minerals. 

“The super region from Central Asia, all the way to the Middle East to Africa is already known to have at least a third of global resources. The demand for materials (critical minerals) is going to be a multiple of what it is today,” said Al-Falih. 

He added: “Accessing the critical minerals we need for energy transition is a historical challenge for humanity. It is going to be underpinned by resources and is going to be underpinned by collaborations across countries, geographies, companies, people, technologies, and different sectors.” 

Al-Falih added that one of the crucial challenge the mineral industry is facing is regarding sustainability, as future operations should be carried out in such a way that it will not negatively impact the environment. 

“A lot of existing production facilities will either decline because of the depletion of resources or because it is not acceptable from a sustainability and environmental standpoint. The incremental demand, the incremental investment, the incremental technologies, and the efforts to meet this inevitable challenge that we have to meet is quite frankly unprecedented in my lifetime,” he noted. 

The investment minister added that Saudi Arabia is playing a crucial role in resolving supply chain issues in the mineral industry. 

He also noted that trillions of dollars are needed in the next couple of decades to meet the “reshaping of the global supply chain” in the industry. 

“Saudi Arabia is a connector which connects countries that are today challenged with finance, challenged with logistics being landlocked in the Central Asia and Africa which also have their challenges. I think the Kingdom can be a partner; not can be, but will be, for countries in the region,” said Al-Falih. 

According to the investment minister, “short-termism” is one of the most crucial challenges faced by the mining sector. 

“Our biggest challenge as humanity is short-termism. Everybody is trying to look at the next year, the next quarter. This is an industry that works in decades,” he noted. 

Kabuwse, during his talk, lauded Saudi Arabia for hosting a platform like FMF, which brought leaders across the super region to discuss the opportunities and challenges in the sector. 

Kabuswe added that policies in the mineral sector should be formulated without harming the interests of other nations, and stressed the need to ensure healthy collaboration between countries in the super region to harness the full potential of mineral resources. 

“If I make policies myself, that will disadvantage my neighbors. And that is not going to help. We need regional groupings and we should all sit together and maximize the benefits of these resources,” said Kabuswe. 

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